My heart rejoiceth in Yahweh

Verses 1-10 of the second chapter are Hannah's prophetic psalm. 

There are several similar songs in Scripture-prophetic inspired praises on special occasions of joy and deliverance. The first is that of Moses and Miriam on the shore of the Red Sea, when God had destroyed the Egyptian army and Israel was, at last, free. And again Moses' solemn song of witness just before he died, as he left for Israel (Deut. 32). And then there is the wonderful victory song of the brave Deborah, who rallied a dispirited Israel against the oppressor.

And then this marvelous song of Hannah, as she dedicated her tiny son Samuel to the work of the LORD and the deliverance of her people. David is next with many songs-the whole Book of Psalms. Psalms 9, 18, and 89 are especially of this personal, prophetic, rejoicing character. Solomon's songs were 1005, of which the choicest of all songs was the Song of Songs. Then Isaiah's sad song of the beloved and lovingly cared for vineyard, but fruitless, which was Israel. And Hezekiah's joyful song of praise at his redemption from the gates of the grave.

Coming to the New Testament, we have three: Zacharias' tongue-loosed hymn of thanksgiving at the birth of John and at the prospective birth of him whom John came to announce. And then Mary's thankful song, when greeted by Elizabeth; so similar to this one of Hannah's. And finally, the glorious triumphant song of Moses and the Lamb, rising like silver thunder to the throne of God from the vast multitude of the redeemed in Revelations *


IT was in that moment of offering her son, as she lent him to the Lord, that the greatness of Hannah was seen. Only her deepest commitment to the purpose of God saw her through the moment. Only her strongest conviction that His sovereign will was at work permitted her to complete her vow. That which had gone out of her lips she would keep and perform. 1

She knew this principle well. It had been the secret of her inspiration for all that she had done, and she would not fail it now, for it was in the difficulty of the vow that its preciousness lay. No burnt offering can be offered without cost, 2 but there would be few who would ever match the magnitude of Hannah's loan. She would pay her vow, with all the voluntary joy that a freewill offering required.

It was on her part an act of extraordinary faith, for despite the logic which told her that God would protect the child, the emotional price of this day in her life was enormous. She had every reason to feel a desperate sadness, a weeping of tears, as committed but sorrowful, she felt the final, real cost of her vow. And yet, remarkably, her spirit was the very opposite. She gave the little Levite with a joy so fierce, it was breathtaking in its intensity.

How could she possibly be joyful on that day? But then this was Hannah - the Handmaid of the Highest, the one who saw ahead to higher things, as her song was about to declare.

There may have been others at Shiloh on that day, watching with curiosity as the woman brought the little child forward to stand with her before Eli. They may not have heard the passage of conversation between these two, but they did hear Hannah's voice rising in joy immediately after. For gripped as she was by the transcendent importance of the moment, Hannah suddenly burst forth into prayer.

In a paean of praise, she sang her song of thankfulness at the very moment of giving her child away. 3 Yet so earnest was her focus, there was not a trace of lamentation or loss. Instead, there came an outpouring so steeped in Biblical thinking, 4 so devoid of personal vindication 5 so full of spiritual exaltation, 6 that it was as if she had stepped into the Holy Place itself.

At the point of her prayer, she crossed the threshold of the sanctuary, and entered into fellowship with her God. Her song recognised the Lord and not herself as the primary force behind all these events. It was a revelation of Hannah's mind, for in spirit she lived in the presence of the Lord of hosts, being there to do His bidding, and ready to fulfil His will. Here surely was the work of God, and this was the song of His Handmaid.

That song, as with other Spirit inspired utterances, saw ahead to speak of future things, but her words were embedded in the power of this present moment. Her prayer reflected what this occasion meant to her, and in that meaning the significance of the future would also be discovered.

Handmade of the Highest Ch 4

1 And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in Yahweh, mine horn is exalted in Yahweh: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation.

As she prayed, she was right there at the sanctuary where they officiated, and her awareness of them was acute. Her prayer, in their [Hophni and Phinehas] presence, was about God's triumph over them, and the most powerful and poignant reason for Hannah's joy expressed in song, was that for her, the giving of Samuel to the Lord was not the conclusion of the matter, but the very beginning.

"My mouth is enlarged." Paul says somewhat similarly to the Corinthians (2 Cor 6), 

"O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open to you, our heart is enlarged...ye are straitened in your bowels." 

That is, ye strain in your affections. "Be ye also enlarged." Enlargement of mouth is expansion and freedom of expression.

In her sorrow, she spoke silently within herself. But God's answer had given her great boldness and joy to cry aloud.

"Enlarged over mine enemies." The plural enemies and the whole majestic tone of the song shows that it relates to the broad purpose of God at which she rejoiced at being part and not to any small feeling of triumph against Peninnah, who was inconsequential. This is further shown by her continuing, "because I rejoice in thy salvation." 

Her mind is on the vast purpose and the mighty attributes of God.*

I Rejoice In Thy Salvation

SALVATION is so wonderful and marvelous and glorious a thing that-if the whole mind is set on it, and the whole life directed toward it, and everything else is put resolutely aside-there can be no unhappiness.

Unhappiness is vision-failure.

Bro Growcott - Search Me O God

"My heart rejoiceth in the LORD" she began, and in these first words, so telling in their focus, she revealed herself. Even in her own rejoicing, Hannah was not concerned with personal recognition, or private vindication. There was no trace of self at all in her prayer, for her thoughts were far above her own situation.

In glorying, she gloried in the Lord. As His Handmaid, she found reason for happiness in the higher cause of the One whom she served. Her own joy was discovered in the outworking of His will. But on this day, this day of days, already filled with tumultuous feelings and heightened thoughts, she felt inspired with the sense that God had brought her to this moment, and that if He had, then her controversy, her contest was now set in motion on His behalf.

It was as if her place and purpose were now made clear.

But her true worth and value were only to be seen in Him, for her horn was exalted "in the LORD". 7 This was the key to Hannah's life. Those who seek to serve a cause higher than themselves find more fulfilment than those who have sought for self-recognition.

It is a God ordained paradox, that those who lose themselves in the greatness of the Truth find happiness beyond compare. For those who do not, the search for happiness is one of the chief sources of their unhappiness. This is a truth which all God's saints come to discover over time, for it lies at the heart of the calling to manifest God.

It is not affected by whether our life is lived in the married state or as an unmarried individual. All God's people find their true focus in the inspiring power of His glorious plan, and the amazing wonder of His mercy in condescending to involve us in it. Here is the only sense of worth that need concern us. Our God has called us, and if we are of worth in His eyes, then nothing else matters.

It was in that new found certainty that her mouth was "enlarged over her enemies", 8 for she felt not only God sanctioned, but God-directed to declare these words of censure against those who were not just her enemies, but God's as well. 9 She was made eloquent to declare the Lord's disapproval of them. Speaking on His behalf and in His name, she uttered words, not of personal recrimination but of divine disapproval. 10

It is common to the weakness of our nature to take the hostility of others personally. It is uncommon to react only to those things which are an affront to Our God. Hannah, whose spirit was exceptional, rose above the personal and saw instead the perspective of heaven. Those enemies that Hannah had in mind could not be Peninnah, for the plural term made that impossible.

Perhaps she had endured the pain of comments from Peninnah. Some unjust, some unkind, and possibly some even cruel. But Peninnah's mind, in this climax of song, was lifted far above and beyond whatever difficulties Peninnah might have caused in her life. Her heart, her strength, her mouth, were all committed to God. Her rejoicing was in the Lord and in His salvation, which she saw as being made possible in the giving of this child to Him.

7 The term "horn" is the symbol of a person's power or influence. Hannah appears

to be the first person to use the expression, but it will be taken up in many other places (Psalm 75:10; 92:10; 112:9; Luke 1:69). How important to note that Hannah did not say that her horn was exalted, but that her horn was exalted in the Lord. The phrase declared her God-centred outlook. Truly she was His Handmaid!

8 The word "enlarged" (rachab) refers to breadth or expanse, and is used colloquially to mean - 'to give room', 'to set free', 'to give relief'. In its essence, it refers here to the faculty of speech being made of greater effect (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, volume 2, pages 840,841).

9 For although the song begins with the phrase - "mine enemies", it will end with the expression - "the adversaries of the LORD". The two were the same, for as the Handmaid of the Highest, Hannah was opposed to those who were against her Lord.

10 Her reproof against those of arrogant words (verses 3,4), and her rebuke against those of aggressive deeds (verses 9,10) were uttered by Hannah on behalf of God, as later events would show. **

2 There is none holy as [kadosh like] Yahweh: for there is none beside Thee: neither is there any rock like our Elohim [Tzur like Eloheinu].

There was a sense of fulfilment so strong, that it verged on ecstasy. 54 In that moment, as time stood still, and the onlookers were hushed, she prayed with closed eyes and uplifted countenance, made radiant in the certainty of her conviction. The Lord had spoken through His Handmaid, whose mind, as always, was fixed on higher things.

There were moments in the divine record, when a man or woman of God ascended into the heights of worship with such fervency and zeal, that they were transported beyond the mundane. It is not an experience shared by the many. It is possible to read from scripture, to stand and sing a hymn, to give our amen to prayer, to partake even of the emblems, yet all the while be far from God.

To draw near to Him, is an act of deliberate intent that demands our earnest focus, but when we do, we experience an aspect of the Truth that fills our being with joy and wonder in equal parts. The great ones of scripture knew such moments. They lived lives that brought them close to God, to a place where intellect and emotion were bound together in reverent awe.

54 Who, reading Hannah's song, could fail to discern her exalted state of mind, and her heightened sense of purpose, so evident in her words, as guided by the Spirit she gave utterance to things that reached far beyond herself. Her song, focused on God throughout, is one of the most moving passages in scripture. This truly was the song of His Handmaid. **

The salvation of God was not to be seen in some individual triumph over Peninnah. And blessed though she was at the birth of Samuel, his arrival did not give her ascendancy over the woman who boasted at least four or more children already. Hannah was not concerned with such rivalry in her song. She was intent upon a far greater cause, and both the birth and the presentation of her child were bound up in its fulfilment.

No, these enemies, whom she had striven against from the first, were Hophni and Phinehas, steeped in wickedness, and opposed to God. She referred to them throughout her song, and before it ended, she had, with prophetic insight, seen their impending death by divine intervention against them.

Here was a contest indeed, and out of it the salvation of the Lord would be seen, not only for Hannah, but for the nation itself. And in her controversy against the priests, the mystery of why a song of thanksgiving should also sound like a stirring battle cry was made plain in the process.11

She was already certain of the outcome, for she had now seen its beginning and believed in its end. Whence then this confident rejoicing on Hannah's part? It did not rest upon her own ability, for the times of her barrenness had taught her not trust in self.

Her certainty sprang from a conviction that God was at work in her life, declared in a threefold chorus that upheld His unrivalled supremacy.

"None holy as the LORD", "none beside thee", "no rock like our God". 12

The words were not Hannah's own, for she had sourced each expression from the book of the law. Her use of them showed not only her wonderful recollection of scripture, but a remarkable understanding of their setting. 13 In these marvellous opening lines of song that flowed unabated from her mouth, Hannah's belief in the greatness of the One she served was seen to be absolute.

12 The three lines all begin with the same word en in the Hebrew. This is a tricolon, with emphatic, short stress lines which all attribute supremacy to God.

13 The words "none holy as the LORD" were an allusion to the nation's song of victory when facing impossible obstacles (Exodus 15:11), "there is none beside thee" was an allusion to the lawgiver's exhortation to obedience in the face of corruption (Deuteronomy 4:35,39), "no rock like our God" was an allusion to the song of Moses concerning the abiding stability of God in contrast to the fickle perversity of His people (Deuteronomy 32:4,5,15,28-31). All three circumstances were relevant to Hannah's own situation. She not only used scripture, but did so in context! **



This is the first of the attributes that she extols, and it must come first. It is fundamental-holiness. It was because of God's immutable and inviolable holiness that Christ must die the dreadful death that he did, and nail the sin-body to the tree. All other religions-man-made religions-have no such conception even as holiness-a pure spotless God calling upon all His children to purity and holiness.

Most so-called Christian religions today have forgotten this. They've lost it, and they pander to the corruptions in the name of what they call love. But the divine decree still stands-

"Without holiness, no man shall see the LORD."

"There is none beside thee."

This is God's great theme through Isaiah-one alone, unique and incomparable, eternal and supreme over all. We must keep bringing ourselves back to God's infinite supremacy and our own utter nothingness. We must walk continually in awe and fear and reverence. This is the very opposite of the spirit of the flesh and of the world. Let us never for a moment relax our awareness of it.

"Neither is there any Rock like our God."

This is the first use of this term for God, except in the song of Moses, which of course Hannah would be familiar with. It is a favourite term with David in the Psalms, but it appears very little elsewhere. The primary idea is strength, permanence, immutability-the basic foundation of everything. And secondarily, it is shelter and protection, safety and security-something on which to build with assurance for eternity.*

3 Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for Yahweh is a El of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.

Reproving the spirit of arrogant words

It was precisely because of the all surpassing supremacy of God that it was so wrong for any to speak with pride or arrogance. But Hannah's enemies had, and she reproved them with all the authority vested in her by the Spirit, which gave utterance. This was not a reproach against the Philistines. Nor was it a reprimand to Peninnah.

There was only one arrogant speech recorded in the story of Hannah's life, and it would emanate from the Sons of Eli in their strident demands upon the worshippers at the sanctuary, Phinehas himself being the epitome of such hard speeches which ungodly sinners had spoken. Their bold words revealed their hubris, made worse by the fact that of all people, the mouth of God's priest was supposed to be the repository of peace and truth. 

There was every reason for Hannah to speak such words of rebuke to those who disgraced their office in such a way. Upon them would come inevitably the judgment of God, who was always aware of the words.and actions of His people. Hannah understood that God was the ultimate arbiter of human destiny, the final authority who would weigh each life in the baIances.

She knew that in the end, God who knows altogether the "word :n our tongue", and who knows the "secrets of the heart", will hold everything to account. There was immeasurable comfort :or Hannah in this thought. The wicked would be judged, and none of their words would be forgotten.

lt was so important to remember that the Lord was omniscient in His knowledge. Sometimes the circumstances of life cause us to imagine that perhaps He does not see, or does not hear, but He always does. He knows all things occurring in our lives, and being cognisant of them responds according to His sovereign will.

Hannah, in understanding this, and despite the provocation of sore trial, would rest in the knowledge that God weighs the spirits and ponders the hearts.17 Those like Hophni and Phinehas, who used their words to coerce others into submission, would be dealt with according to God's infallible knowledge. She saw it now, through the eye of faith and the insight of the Spirit.


All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but Yahweh weigheth the spirits - Prov 16: 2

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but Yahweh pondereth the hearts - Prov 21: 2.

18 The term "mighty men" (gibborim) is both masculine and plural, and cannot be a reference to Peninnah. But it does have an immediate and obvious application to Hophni and Phinehas who were the gibborim of their age. Within the epoch of the judges, Gideon was agibbor (Judges 6:12), Jephthah was agibbor (Judges 11:1), and Boaz was a gibbor (Ruth 2:1).

Its use indicates those who were prominent in status or influence at the time. In Hannah's day, Hophni and Phinehas had already assumed that position, as the record carefully noted at the start of this story (1 Samuel 1:3). **

The fourth attribute-wisdom, understanding, limitless infinity of knowledge and observance, even to the fall of a sparrow.

Finally, "By him actions are weighed." Justice and judgment, reward and punishment, discernment even to the deepest hidden thoughts and intents of the heart.*

4 The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength.

5 They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble.

Whatever sharp words Peninnah might have uttered, she as not the subject of Hannah's thought when she envisaged the breaking of "the bows of the mighty men". 18 Nor did Hannah have the Philistines in mind. 19 She was focused on the men of the day who held the power, and who made the decisions within Israel. And who were these mighty men of the moment but Hophni and Phinehas, who, ensconced in the place of the greatest spiritual authority, held the nation in their sway as they exercised the priestly office.

Eli might still have been present, but all the nation knew who was really in control. These were they to whom Hannah referred, as she saw ahead to the removal of their influence, and to the breaking of their arrogant words by which they kept the people in subjection.

Words are powerful weapons of control, and these two used their bows to "shoot privily at the upright", and to "shoot in secret at the perfect" as their arrows of scorn were directed against the righteous. 20 Hannah had witnessed their power to destroy godly life, and she felt cause for deep rejoicing at the thought that this evil influence might be removed.

How much she wanted to see these bows broken, and those arrows snapped. Yet this was not a prayer of personal revenge on Hannah's part, but a fervent wish that the nation might be delivered from a spirit that all too long had burdened and oppressed them, so that "men abhorred the offering of the LORD".

But hope now lay at hand, in the form of the little child lent to the Lord. Through her work on this day, Hannah felt at last that though fainting, she might again be girded with strength. She knew what it felt like to know the feebleness of inability to change the wrong. In the face of the man of aggressive deeds and the man of arrogant words, who was she, but one woman against the control of such corrupt men.

To know their spiritual evil, and realise their ascendant power, was to know the helplessness of the saints when overwhelmed. Yet that is the moment when the faithful pray for strength beyond their ability, but not beyond their God's. Hannah felt a surge of strength now, as her heart poured its thoughts, strength for the battle which she had now embarked upon.

There was no doubt in her mind that it was a contest. For these unholy and ungodly men had abused their office to satisfy their own fleshly desires. The fulness which the priesthood enjoyed was notorious. In their greed, they had seized the sacrificial portions to feed their desire for dainty meats, in brazen disregard for the spiritual havoc they wrought among the offerers. 21

Their fulness of bread was but the token of a life of riches, as the service of the sanctuary was sequestered for their private pleasure. But all this was to change. Hannah knew that she could not remove this evil, but she was certain that God could, and that even now, that work had begun in the son she had returned to Him.

The house of Eli was to suffer a reversal so complete as to change their abundance into want, and their fulness into deficiency. She knew it now, and her triumphant words -

"they that were full have hired themselves out for bread",

declared her certainty by describing the future in the present. Her words could be confirmed by heaven, for the reversal which she saw was exactly God's intention. 22 The Handmaid knew her Master's mind.

Nor would their demise be the end of the matter, but rather, that in their removal, the spiritual life of her people could be started afresh.

19 Hannah's subsequent words in 1 Samuel 2:5, will be seen to refer not to the Philistines, but to the ultimate fate of the priests - Hophni and Phinehas, as the record will later show.

20 In the context of the proud talk and arrogant words of verse 3, the bow (qesheth) here is not a symbol of military force, but of boastful speech. The symbol of the bow as the mouth, and its arrows as bitter words is certainly used elsewhere (Psalm 11:2; 64:3,4; Jeremiah 9:3).

Of special significance is a passage (Psalm 37:14,15) where the same term (qesheth) is not only used figuratively, but where the phrase "their bows shall be broken", is clearly an allusion to Hannah's own expression here.

21  1 Samuel 2:17,24.

22  There could not have been a stronger endorsement of Hannah's statement than the

use of that same expression by God's own spokesman (1 Samuel 2:36). And this deliberate echoing of Hannah's words is evidence that the focus of her prayer was indeed on the removal of Hophni and Phinehas, that true worship in the nation might be restored. **

How deeply did Hannah yearn to be fed with spiritual sustenance, and where else should that have been found but at the sanctuary. 23 And yet, how many times had Hannah visited that place, only to depart feeling empty and unsustained.

Not everyone feels that yearning. Hannah did. Yet even now, that first sense of an assuaging of her hunger had come. In time the place of the peace offering would again be the place of the fellowship meal, and then she would be filled. But for now, she rested in the joy of knowing that it would come. When it did, she would eat and be satisfied, and in that day, all those who were hungry would cease to be so. 24

As her mind ranged over the enormity of what this day promised, she could see the nation's destiny found within her own family. Peninnah had borne children with such ease, as indeed the nation did in producing the natural seed. But the begettal of true spiritual offspring was a work which lay beyond the natural power of procreation. 25

Hannah knew the reality of divine intervention in her life, and saw in Samuel the type of one to come who would be the deliverer of his people. She understood that she could not personally bring forth the Messiah, but her child was a foreshadowing of the one in whom the nation would find redemption. 26

Hannah of course had not borne seven children at this moment, nor would she ever do so. But her statement - "The barren hath borne seven" was her way of describing the sense of completeness which the birth of Samuel brought into her life. 27

There was purpose now, and a sense of fulfilment which was very real. Even the agony of giving Samuel up could not diminish it, for his giving was part of that purpose. As always, Hannah's mind was on higher things.

23 Deuteronomy 12:18.

24 Mary fully understood the meaning of Hannah's words, for in her prayer she quoted them exactly in context.

"He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he hath sent empty away" (Luke 1:52).

In the gospel of Luke, with its special focus on the priesthood of Christ, the term 'rich' is a key idea, and has marked application to the priestly class who controlled the wealth of the temple. There was a Hophni and Phinehas family in the time of Christ!

25 The circumstances of Hannah and Peninnah were typical of the spiritual and natural seeds, seen also in Sarah and Hagar, and in the allegory of their lives, so carefully wrought by the apostle as he depicted the two sons, the two women, and the two mountains (Galatians 4:22-27).

26 That Hannah saw a national, rather than a personal aspect to her words is also seen in the comment of the prophet, where, in allusion to Hannah's words, the matter

is also given a national application (Jeremiah 15:7-9). This was not about Hannah and Peninnah, but about how the nation's experience was mirrored through them.

And I will fan them with a fan in the gates of the land; I will bereave them of children, I will destroy my people since they return not from their ways.

Their widows are increased to me above the sand of the seas: I have brought upon them against the mother of the young men a spoiler at noonday: I have caused him to fall upon it suddenly, and terrors upon the city.

She that hath borne seven languisheth: she hath given up the ghost; her sun is gone down while it was yet day: she hath been ashamed and confounded: and the residue of them will I deliver to the sword before their enemies, saith the Lord - Jer 15: 7-9.

And I will fan them with a fan in the gates of the land; I will bereave them of children, I will destroy my people since they return not from their ways.

Their widows are increased to me above the sand of the seas: I have brought upon them against the mother of the young men a spoiler at noonday: I have caused him to fall upon it suddenly, and terrors upon the city.

She that hath borne seven languisheth: she hath given up the ghost; her sun is gone down while it was yet day: she hath been ashamed and confounded: and the residue of them will I deliver to the sword before their enemies, saith the Lord - Jer 15: 7-9.

27 A similar expression was used concerning Ruth's relationship with Naomi (Ruth 4:15). **

6 Yahweh killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. 

7 Yahweh maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up.

God's total control of human affairs and how quickly they can be reversed-the mighty brought down, the low exalted. We see it in the fortunes of nations and individuals. It is illustrated in miniature in Hannah's own case. As we first see her, she is in abject misery, and could have lived and died in total obscurity-a mere passing object of local pity and reproach. But one fervent prayer and she is raised to heights of joy and divine prominence that few women, or men, ever attain to.*

God's total control of human affairs and how quickly they can be reversed-the mighty brought down, the low exalted. We see it in the fortunes of nations and individuals. It is illustrated in miniature in Hannah's own case. As we first see her, she is in abject misery, and could have lived and died in total obscurity-a mere passing object of local pity and reproach. But one fervent prayer and she is raised to heights of joy and divine prominence that few women, or men, ever attain to.*

God controls all the circumstances of life, and there is not a person who can escape His omniscient presence. But His ability to make dead or alive stands related to the question of our final destiny. God could take life as He would in the case of Hophni and Phinehas. Hannah believed that God could remove them, and that He would do so by the divine intervention of judicial death. 28

But He could also give life as he did in the miraculous conception of Samuel. Hannah knew that power, in the bringing forth of her first born son from the deadness of her womb. In both cases, there was a divine involvement, as God used the power He holds over life and death in the furtherance of His purpose.

And yet further, she saw with prophetic insight that reached beyond her own state to the issues of final destiny. Where one would be brought to the grave to remain, another would experience the power of resurrection. God's purpose relates to eternal things, and its outworking will involve the miracle of a bringing up from the grave of certain who have gone there.

In a remarkable demonstration of her spiritual mind, Hannah spoke of the hope of that resurrection with a clarity rarely known in her age. 29 She believed in One who held the power to exert sovereign control over those processes normally regarded as fixed and immutable.

But, in addition to the matters of final destiny, are the matters of present reality. Whilst these are more proximate in their bearings, they are nevertheless ordered by God towards our ultimate end. To be made poor or made rich, to be brought low or to be lifted up, are alike within the power of God who permits such things for our development.

Hannah, on this day was acutely aware of what the Father could do in her life, for the power of providence interwoven into daily experience was something she knew and believed in. She had learned to recognise the hand of God in both the good and evil in her life.

Since God is the author of both, 30 we must accept that either may come, and seek rather to understand what the Father would have us to learn from the experience. 31 The presence of trials in our life does not mean that He has rejected us, but rather that He is at work in our lives. Our wisdom is to respond, that He might shape us as He pleases.

But there is an order. First the darkness and then His marvellous light. First the suffering and then the glory that should follow. First the sorrow and then the joy that no man taketh away. The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich, He bringeth low, and lifteth up, and in that way, we thereby experience the fulness, having first known the emptiness.

The trials brought upon us by God are designed to strengthen and direct us in His way. It is easy in lives of purposeful activity to forget that all things are regulated by the divine hand. Hannah had known the poverty of barrenness and the lowness of reproach, but God had graciously altered her circumstances. God can and will reverse the vicissitudes of life, but even then, it is His purpose that is being advanced, and not our own.

28 Her words were again a quotation from Moses (Deuteronomy 32:39), reflecting upon the all-pervasive power of God. To 'kill' here was not simply death by natural means, but God's power deliberately to take away life.

29 Hannah knew the book of Job, and may well have been aware of this testimony

"For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God; whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me" (Job 19:25-27).

30 Isaiah 45:7.

31 Hannah's words are again reminiscent of Job's (Job 1:21, 2:10), whose thoughts she may well be echoing. Despite his suffering, he was lifted out of it by God, and made better in the process. And his final restoration came when he prayed for his three friends (Job 42:10). Hannah likewise, was lifted out of her grief, after she had prayed for the needs of her people. **

8 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are Yahweh's, and he hath set the world upon them.

Recognising the balance of divine control

The poor in the dust and the beggar on the dunghill were the social outcasts of society. Their position was such a lowly one that they were constantly aware of it, like the dust which covered them, for they were unable to improve their lot or make demand of others. Vulnerable and anxious, deprived and ignored, their lives were lived in a state of perpetual need. To sit in dust or ashes was an act of mourning which symbolised just how low the suffering one had been brought. 32

Hannah was not literally among the poor or the beggars, for her station in life was secure. But of all people, they epitomised that feeling of degradation and despair that Hannah knew only too well. Hers was the result of the social stigma that the reproach of barrenness brought upon her, and with that flash of insight so marked in Hannah's mind, she saw the poverty of the poor as a parable of her own barren womb.

She had known the misery of being oppressed in heart, but now she knew the marvellous freedom of release. In blessing her with a son, God had alleviated her need, and lifted her out of the dust of her wretched state. And to be lifted out of the dust was but the first step to being washed clean, and clothed afresh, and set on high. The exaltation of spirit she felt because of God's hand upon her was real and so uplifting, that she could not help but praise Him.

But she saw in her own experience an earnest of the coming exaltation of her people. Israel, oppressed as they were by the ungodly who had left them so spiritually bereft, would be raised to better things. This dramatic change in her own life made her sure of it.

Nothing could speak of that reversal more eloquently than for the poor in the dust to arise and sit with princes, and for the needy on the dunghill to ascend to inherit the throne of glory. There was blessing indeed about to come. She felt it in her bones, this tingling certainty that God was at work in these very things to restore the nation to the honour of fellowship with Him. 33

She knew the character of the God she served. It has always been a divine paradox, that He that inhabiteth eternity, and who dwells in the high and holy place, is also He who dwells with those who are of a contrite and humble spirit. 34 He who dwelleth on high, is He who humbles Himself to respond to those in need. The very mark of His greatness is to be found in His willingness to stoop down and consider those who are His special care, the poor and needy. 35

'"He can raise the poor to stand, with the princes of the land".

He does not do so merely for their advancement, but for His. He who holds all things in His sway is intent upon the ordering of His own sovereign purpose. But those who might be poor in resource, yet rich in faith towards Him, suddenly find the might of God arrayed behind them, and the world is turned upside down

This was how Hannah felt as she sang her song, fully aware, fully conscious of things now made possible, she might never have dared to contemplate. That God governed all the world was never in doubt in Hannah's mind. But to see His hand at work in her life and in the life of her son, was to see it made real.

32 Notice again how reminiscent Hannah's words are of ideas expressed in the book of Job, as her mind found expression in the language of scripture (Job 1:20; 2:8,12,13; 16:15; 30:19; 42:6).

33 Hannah's phrase "the throne of glory" is quite possibly an allusion to the temple (Jeremiah 14:21; 17:12). Just as Hannah saw in her bearing of a child the raising of the nation, so with no less focus did she see the same lesson in her son. Little Samuel, plucked from obscurity and sent to the temple, where the spiritual decisions of the nation would be made, was a parable of the same thing. His elevation to the place of God's throne of glory stirred her heart with its possibilities of restoration to fellowship with God. After all, Hannah's mind was never far from the ark of God's presence and the sanctuary where it resided.

34 Isaiah 57:15.

35 The very words of Hannah's song are quoted in the book of Psalms (Psalm 113:7,8).

Here, the raising of the poor is undertaken by the God who dwelleth on high, yet who humbleth Himself to behold the needs of His saints (Psalm 113:5,6). The final proof of His power to elevate is seen in His intervention in the life of the barren woman, to make her a joyful mother (Psalm 113:9). The psalmist knew of Hannah's situation, and not only quoted her words, but her own special circumstance before God, and His response to her need. The psalm moreover, is addressed to the priests, that they might understand this lesson of divine care (Psalm 113:1,2). **

She knew as few others did, how completely the world rested upon the foundations which God had fastened from the beginning. 36 And she knew also how everything depended upon the stability of the pillars which God had set the earth upon. 37 But how like Hannah to picture her world as a temple for God, where the pillars of the building were the stay and support of the whole edifice. 38 For her, the pillars were but the entrance to the world over which God presided. 39

And since that delicate balance of all the circumstances of life rested in the hands of the Father, the whole world was subject to a divine control which could disturb that balance at any moment of time. 40 Suddenly those who felt secure could be shaken out of their place, and those who felt unstable could remain.

All God's saints are brought through this experience. The ability of God to turn the world upside down leaves His people thankful that when the earth shakes, it is God that "keeps steady its pillars". 41 Only when we have felt the powerlessness of times when our own world is shaken to its core, do we know the wonder of how God can keep us upright in the place of falling. But He can, and He will, when His own purpose is at work.

36 Job 38:4-6. The word 'foundations' used here (eden - sockets) relates to the supports for the pillars of the tabernacle (Numbers 4:31,32) which the Levites were responsible for.

37 Job 9:6.

38 The temple of the Philistines furnishes an example of the type of pillars Hannah no

doubt had in mind "the two middle pillars upon which the house stood" (Judges 16:29).

39 The term Hannah uses (matsuwq - molten support, from tsuwq - to pour out or melt) conveys the idea of the molten cast pillars of the temple, which Solomon later fashioned (1 Kings 7:15,16), and placed in the entrance porch of the temple (1 Kings 7:21).

40 Hence Rotherham - "For, to Yahweh, belong the pillars of the earth, and he setteth

there on the habitable world".

41 "When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars" (Psalm 75:3, RSV). And this, in a psalm which resonates with allusions to Hannah's prayer (Psalm 75:5,7,10)! **

9 He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail.

Here again is holiness.

"It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps."

But those who walk by the lamp of the Word will be divinely kept from stumbling or wandering or slipping.

"The path of the just is as shining light; it shineth more and more unto the perfect day."

Let us be sure that as we grow older (we all do inevitably-daily), our path shines more and more by ever growing deeper and wiser in the Word. We can never just drift into the Kingdom of God. It's an upward, constant, joyful effort-more and more.*

10 The adversaries of Yahweh shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: Yahweh shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed.

Rebuking the spirit of aggressive deeds

In fact, it is in those very moments when the balance of life can be upset so easily, and so dramatically, that the faithful ought never to fear, because

"He will keep the feet of his saints".

Hannah knew this in her own life. Looking back, she saw the steps that had led her to this day, and knew with certainty that the Lord of hosts had seen her journey, and chosen her path. But this song of thanks which now she breathed, was not for herself, so much as for her son.

From the moment of his conception, nay, from the moment of her prayer, she had believed that the child was destined for the Lord's work. And if he was, then it was into the Lord's charge that she now left him, certain that He would guide his footsteps. The thought brought both calm and consolation to Hannah, as she readied herself to leave her little boy in Shiloh.

The Lord would recognise a priestly spirit in him, 42 and would watch over him for good. How else would the lad manage in this place, unless in his weakness and smallness, the hand of the Almighty overshadowed him. When all in life seems hopeless, when all our strength seems powerless, this assurance of an invisible, invincible spirit of guardian care brings comfort to grieving hearts.

The saints of God are precious to Him, and whether it be the journey of our own life, or the pathway of a child who we resign into His care,

"the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his". 43

But God also knoweth them that are not His, and their destiny was not to be found in the light. The proud and the lofty whom God would cast down were not the national foes of Israel, but the ungodly within the nation. And the poor and wretched whom He would exalt were the holy and the righteous in the land.

The wicked who would be silent in darkness were not the Philistines, for Hannah's thoughts were not focused on the fear of foreign domination. The wicked were those whose spirit was so opposed to divine principles that God Himself was their enemy. Their influence was to be removed by the termination of death itself, for the silence of darkness was but the stillness of death.

Why was this calamitous overthrow to come upon them? It was because of a spirit which vaunted itself against God. If Phinehas was the representative of those who were arrogant in their words (the man of the brazen mouth), 44 Hophni was the symbol of those who were aggressive in their deeds (the man with the clenched fist). But even a mighty man could not prevail against the divine purpose. Even one given to aggressive deeds could not succeed in exerting the force of his power when it came to opposing God. No matter what trials come upon us, the will of the Father will always prevail, and none can stand against it. Not even a Hophni.

"By strength shall no man prevail."

In truth, the judicial decree of God had already been determined in this matter. These men were the enemies of God, and it was His intention to oppose them. It was a dreadful thing, for their spirit had already sealed their destiny. The wrath of God against His adversaries was terrible indeed, for God would not hesitate to shatter those who stood in opposition to Him. Hophni and Phinehas were completely unaware that their doom was declared, but Hannah, through the Spirit, knew it of a certainty. 45

God Himself would utter His strong disapproval upon them from on high. The thunder of heaven, terrifying in its power, was as the voice of God Himself. 46 And when that word of judgment fell, there would be no right of reply, for the decision would be final. None would be exempt, and the judgment of God after falling on the sons of Eli would extend across the entire nation. 47

The inevitability of this day was deeply comforting to Hannah, as it is to all who await the answer of God against an evil age. The day of judgment was not hers to announce, nor hers to execute. But when it came, and once it began, it would move forward with ever increasing force until it became unstoppable.

42 The word "saints" (chaciyd - pious, holy, godly) is used in parallel to the word priests (2 Chronicles 6:41; Psalm 132:9,16). But in the Hebrew text, the word is in the singular - "the pious one". This one, so lovingly disposed toward God, as to be called 'his holy one' - was Samuel! His mother knew the child's heart, for she had taught him since he was a babe.

43 The apostle's statement (2 Timothy 2:19), is a quotation from the episode of Korah's rebellion against Moses and Aaron. Moses declared that "Yahweh will shew who are his, and who is the holy one" (Numbers 16:15). The priesthood of Aaron was confirmed, and the wickedness of Korah declared. It was this same controversy Hannah had set in motion with the challenge of Samuel against Hophni and Phinehas. The Lord would soon declare who was His holy one in Shiloh, and this is the theme of Hannah's song.

44 Compare the earlier terms in Hannah's song which refer to the spirit of Phinehas (1 Samuel 2:3).

45 Her words were strong indeed. Rotherham - ''As for Yahweh they shall be shattered who contend with him"; GLT - "They who strive with Yahweh will be smashed". Hannah did not utter these words based upon her own personal feelings. They were the decree of heaven expressed through her, and God Himself endorsed her words (1 Samuel 2:25).

46 The metaphor of the thunder as the voice of God, was to be found in scriptures which Hannah had access to (Exodus 9:28; Job 37:4,5; 40:9).

47 This is of course what happened. Not only were Hophni and Phinehas slain, but Eli died, the ark of God was taken into captivity, Shiloh was destroyed, and the nation plunged into trouble. In this series of events when the Lord judged to the "ends of the earth" (Israel), was foreshadowed the great judgment to come when Messiah shall judge all the world, that the adversaries of the Lord might be shattered. **

Revealing the hope of a better age

As her inspired utterance drew near to its close, her thoughts came full circle. As the Handmaid of the Highest, she sought only to advance the divine purpose. Her song from start to finish was never about Hannah's objectives, but the Father's. And so, those whom she first described as "mine enemies", were at the end none other than the "adversaries of the LORD" .

She saw how important it was to be working with God, rather than against Him, for those found to be contending with God will be overthrown. Alone in her weakness, and bereft of the intruments of control which these two wielded, she served in humility, but would be victorious through submission.

It is one thing to pluck up and to pull down that which is evil, but quite another to build and to plant that which is good. Seeking to overthrow the wrong is negative. Striving to establish the right is positive. The latter is much more difficult to achieve than the former, for to destroy can be the work of a moment, but to create is the labour of a lifetime.

The great epochs of spiritual vitality in the history of God's people all came about because of the labour of those who sought something better. Hannah was such an one. She desired not so much to remove as to replace, not so much to put an end as to make a start. For her, the dedication of Samuel promised the start of a new and better age for the faithful in Israel. And, such was her grasp of divine principle and divine promise, she knew exactly what that age would involve.

Guided by the Spirit, she saw the overthrow of those who were evil, but as her mind soared beyond her own day, her words save utterance to the Spirit's promise of the final victory of Messiah in the age to come. God's king would be given strength. God's anointed would be exalted. But his elevation was related to and consequent upon the overthrow of the adversaries of the Lord.

His rise was the counter to their fall, and in coming to replace them, his work was to fulfil that which they would not do. The height of Hannah's prophetic anticipation did not lie in the advent of a king, but in the appearing of one who would also hold priestly powers.

This anointed one of whom Hannah spoke, could not just be a king, for his work was to bring about a better priesthood, to replace forever the sacerdotal order so disgraced by Hophni and Phinehas. She anticipated one to come in whom kingship and priesthood would be united, and with an anointing to the dignity of both offices. 48 This was Hannah's understanding, marvellous in its insight, and that it was so would be made plain by her subsequent actions.

48 It has been rightly observed that Hannah was the first person to use the word Messiah (mashiyach) as a title (1 Samuel 2:10). But Hannah was not the first person to use the word itself, for it appeared in the book of the law, which Hannah was familiar with. Its use there however exclusively referred to the anointing of the priesthood (Leviticus 4:3,5,16; 6:22), the holy anointing oil being the mode of appointing the High Priest to office. What Hannah spoke of in prophecy was the coming of the one with the rights of Melchizedek, to be both king and priest upon his throne (Zechariah 6:12,13).

As her inspired utterance drew near to its close, her thoughts came full circle. As the Handmaid of the Highest, she sought only to advance the divine purpose. Her song from start to finish was never about Hannah's objectives, but the Father's. And so, those whom she first described as "mine enemies", were at the end none other than the "adversaries of the LORD" .

She saw how important it was to be working with God, rather than against Him, for those found to be contending with God will be overthrown. Alone in her weakness, and bereft of the intruments of control which these two wielded, she served in humility, but would be victorious through submission.

It is one thing to pluck up and to pull down that which is evil, but quite another to build and to plant that which is good. Seeking to overthrow the wrong is negative. Striving to establish the right is positive. The latter is much more difficult to achieve than the former, for to destroy can be the work of a moment, but to create is the labour of a lifetime.

The great epochs of spiritual vitality in the history of God's people all came about because of the labour of those who sought something better. Hannah was such an one. She desired not so much to remove as to replace, not so much to put an end as to make a start. For her, the dedication of Samuel promised the start of a new and better age for the faithful in Israel. And, such was her grasp of divine principle and divine promise, she knew exactly what that age would involve.

Guided by the Spirit, she saw the overthrow of those who were evil, but as her mind soared beyond her own day, her words save utterance to the Spirit's promise of the final victory of Messiah in the age to come. God's king would be given strength. God's anointed would be exalted. But his elevation was related to and consequent upon the overthrow of the adversaries of the Lord.

His rise was the counter to their fall, and in coming to replace them, his work was to fulfil that which they would not do. The height of Hannah's prophetic anticipation did not lie in the advent of a king, but in the appearing of one who would also hold priestly powers.

This anointed one of whom Hannah spoke, could not just be a king, for his work was to bring about a better priesthood, to replace forever the sacerdotal order so disgraced by Hophni and Phinehas. She anticipated one to come in whom kingship and priesthood would be united, and with an anointing to the dignity of both offices. 48 This was Hannah's understanding, marvellous in its insight, and that it was so would be made plain by her subsequent actions.

48 It has been rightly observed that Hannah was the first person to use the word Messiah (mashiyach) as a title (1 Samuel 2:10). But Hannah was not the first person to use the word itself, for it appeared in the book of the law, which Hannah was familiar with. Its use there however exclusively referred to the anointing of the priesthood (Leviticus 4:3,5,16; 6:22), the holy anointing oil being the mode of appointing the High Priest to office. What Hannah spoke of in prophecy was the coming of the one with the rights of Melchizedek, to be both king and priest upon his throne (Zechariah 6:12,13). **

The terrible rupture of the fellowship meal which Eli's sons so cruelly caused was the reason for Hannah's grief. That the precious associations of this meal could be so abruptly set aside was the basis for her righteous indignation. But in her deepest meditation upon scripture, Hannah found the basis for her hope. For in an earlier age, and in the tabernacle of Shem, where the true worship of God had been found, a man had stood to minister before the Lord.

His spirit did not destroy the beauty of holiness, but rather upheld it. And the work of Melchizedek as king and priest had inspired the patriarch Abraham to make his own pledge of faithfulness to the Most High God. 50

The prospect of such a man who brought forth a meal of bread and wine and graciously invited those present to share it with him, 51 was like a blazing light to Hannah's mind. How different was this one, who had ruled in Salem, and brought forth blessing on those who came to the tent of meeting. And how sacred was this fellowship feast, prepared and offered by a priest whose aim was to exalt all who ate together. In this episode, Hannah found the example and the spirit which she desired to see renewed in Israel. Surely another man like he, was what the nation needed.

And was not that possibility enshrined in another promise made in patriarchal times? When Jacob blessed his sons, he uttered a promise which the faithful in Israel knew. His words to Judah promised that one called Shiloh would come, a mysterious man in whom would be vested a similar authority to Melchizedek. 52

But only a Hannah would discern the deeper meaning of the promise, for hidden in his description was one who would hold the sceptre of the king, but also wear the blood sprinkled garments of the priest. The gathering of the people would be unto him, not only through his rulership exercised with power, but because of his redemption wrought in sacrifice. 53

There was probably none else like her in the nation at this moment, as she looked ahead to things unseen by others. Her heart was in the Holiest of all where the ark of God's presence promised both atonement and fellowship. Hannah knew that the fulness of both would only be realised when a King of Righteousness was exalted, but in him she also saw the Priest of the Most High God.

And far off though that moment might have been, she saw all this in the birth of her son. Of course, he was a man of Levi, and therefore unable to fulfil the terms of the Shiloh promise which awaited a man of Judah. But, she recognised in her child a model for the work of Messiah himself. It was an ideal to be striven for by every godly mother: to have such a desire for the development of their children, that they might grow to reveal the very spirit of Christ within them.

Hannah was filled with joy at the triumph of the Lord's honour, and the triumph of the Lord's purpose focused in her son as the instrument for its achievement. And when the last line of her song left her lips, her own vow of Nazarite dedication was accomplished, completed in the giving of her child. How gloriously would her words end, just as her song had begun. For her first cry - "My horn is exalted in the LORD", would at the last become - "the LORD '" will exalt the horn ·of his anointed". Her status and her purpose would be subsumed into the exaltation of God's anointed. She would be made whole, she would be made strong in him.

50 The vow of Abraham uttered to the Most High God (Genesis 14:22) immediately after his conversation with Melchizedek who had already used that title (Genesis 14:19,20), showed the impact that this king-priest had on the patriarch. In paying tithes to him (Genesis 14:20) he declared the greatness of Melchizedek above his own station in God's sight (Hebrews 7:7,8).

51 The very verse which identified Melchizedek as holding both the offices of king and priest, also mentioned the fellowship meal he provided to share with Abraham (Genesis 14:18).

52 That the Shiloh promise related to a person not a place was made evident by the passage itself (Genesis 49:10-12). The terms clearly indicate an individual "unto him shall the gathering of the people be", "binding his colt", "he washed his garments", "his teeth white with milk". Both the personal pronouns and the personal actions concern a special man.

53 This twofold aspect of kingship and priesthood in the Shiloh promise was recognised in other scriptures. Ezekiel referred to an overturning "until he come whose right it is", in unmistakable allusion to the Shiloh promise. Until that one should come, both the mitre of the priest and the crown of the king would be held in reserve for him (Ezekiel21:26,27). Zechariah spoke of one who would appear on Shiloh's ass, to ride as king and claim dominion, but who would also bring salvation as priest through the blood of the covenant he would mediate (Zechariah 9:9-11). **

**Bro Roger Lewis - Handmaid of the Highest Ch 4

Here is the final and inevitable culmination of the purpose. ..All the prophets point to this great day, and Hannah was among the first to do so.

...Hannah was the first to apply the title anointed, or Messiah as it is in the Hebrew, to Christ. The only occurrences of the word before are in the regulations of the Law of Moses concerning the priesthood. But it was the very prominent essence of Israel's hope thereafter.

Again, David picks it up in the Psalms, joyfully, as in Psalm 2, where the kings of the earth strangely unite against Yahweh and His anointed. And apart from the mystic prophecies that Balaam was forced to utter against his will and beyond his understanding,

"Israel's king shall be higher than Agag,"

and the voice of a king is among them.

... "He shall give strength to his king." This was fulfilled in Christ in a much deeper sense than the mere conferring of power and authority. We see it beautifully unfolded in the divinely assisted perfection of his life and character that he might accomplish what weak unaided man could never do, and therefore offer a powerful and acceptable sacrifice of perfect holiness and purity, as a foundation of redemption for the whole race.

...And now ever involved in his obedience and victory, he is made eternally strong in immortal strength and able to save to the uttermost those who come to God by him. Here is real inner strength for eternal kingship-far beyond mere external power and authority, because ourselves are nothing.*

11 And Elkanah went to Ramah to his house. And the child did minister unto Yahweh before Eli the priest.

Hannah and her child

HANNAH'S song ended, and she knelt to embrace her child, holding him close, feeling his warmth, hugging him tight. 'The LORD be with you, my son' she whispered, and as she arose, a woman from the tabernacle stepped forward quietly, and took Samuel by the hand. 1 'Come, little one. Let me show you your new home', she said, as she led Samuel away to his new house in one of the buildings about the sanctuary. The die was cast. The battle was joined. The outcome was now in the hands of the Almighty Himself. Hannah turned and walked away from the tabernacle. She did not look back. It would have been too hard. 2

Their journey home was not an easy one. Hannah's elation in praise was followed by an unbearable sadness, as each homeward step marked the absence of the little boy who had walked alongside her on the journey there. It was to be expected, but she felt it all the same. The ache of the loss inside her was more painful than she ever could have imagined, a pain impossible to describe. She would come to realise that her pain would never go away, for it was part of her.

The cost of giving her son was not just to be felt in the moment of his giving, but for ever after in the permanence of his loss. She felt unutterably weary, as the toll of four years of prayer and preparation were suddenly completed. From her first beseeching to this last surrender, these years had been focused on one thing only: the birth, nurture and return of the Son for whom she had prayed.

Now she uttered in private the prayer she would offer so many times over this next year, that the Lord would watch over her son, and "keep the feet of his holy one" in Shiloh. But the little boy was already being watched over by the One into whose care she had consigned him.

When Hannah left Shiloh, so did Elkanah, and Samuel was now also to be separated from his father, and his father's house. From this moment, he would live in another house, and serve another Father according to a higher principle than flesh and blood. 3 Within the shelter of that sacred care, his life and work Was sacrosanct, as he learned to "be about his Father's business". 4

It was too soon for Samuel to know the meaning of the temple service he was now joined to. But even in his innocence as a little child, Samuel was intent upon ministering to the Lord. 5 To the degree that his age permitted, Samuel began to learn the priestly role, and the priestly law.

He would, early on, begin his instruction in the Torah, which he would learn to read, then to recite, and finally to teach. Of course, everything that he did was done under the watchful eye of Eli, who set and approved the tasks he could perform, but even now the spirit of the child was that he ministered unto the Lord.

Only now was it seen how well Hannah had prepared her son for life at the sanctuary. The three precious years she had spent with him were enough. Samuel had not just been given to the Lord in person, but in spirit. She had not just brought him to the sanctuary, she had given him a sanctuary mind. She had not just left him to serve, she had imbued him with the spirit of sanctuary service.

This child belonged at the house of God, and it was his mother who gifted him with that sense of belonging. Hannah's example would become the benchmark of every aspiring mother in Israel, whose wish was to train up their child in the way they should go, so that when they were old, they would not depart from it.

Samuel never did depart from the way of his mother, for she instilled in him a love of the God of Israel. From his first moment in Shiloh, Samuel grasped his calling to the priestly office. He was a little priest in the making, and just as well that he was.

1 See Chapter 6 - "Hannah and her hope" on page 127, under the heading, "The mysterious guardian of the child" for thoughts as to who this woman might have been.

2 Cp. Genesis 19:26; Luke 9:62.

3 This is the idea suggested by the narrative. For although it is evident that Elkanah and Hannah returned home together as on other occasions (1 Samuel 1:19; 2:20), the record focuses attention on Elkanah alone. The implication is that Samuel was not just weaned of his mother, but would now be separated from his father. The meaning is seen in the balance between the two sentences which convey this idea. Rotherham -

"Then went Elkanah to Ramah, unto his Own house - but, the boy remained ministering unto Yahweh" (1 Samuel 2:11).

4 The expression is rendered by YLT - "in the things of my Father it behoveth me to be" (Luke 2:49). How significant it is that these are the first recorded words of Christ, and how remarkably well they echo this moment in the life of Hannah's son.

5 The word "to minister" (sharath - to minister or serve) does occur in some political and domestic contexts. But its most frequent use is for the service at the sanctuary (Exodus 28:35,43) with its priestly overtones, and it is so used here (1 Samuel 2:11).

12 Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not Yahweh.

There was every reason for Hannah to believe that her contest had begun with the giving of her son, for the situation at the sanctuary was dire indeed. Such was the evil of the priests at Shiloh that God had determined on a course that would bring judgment upon them, the very judgment Hannah had seen by the Spirit in her song.

The sons of Eli, called to a life of holiness in priestly service, never attained unto the honour of that state. Hophni and Phinehas were undoubtedly the mighty men of the age, but in spirit they were not the sons of Eli. Their father's name commemorated the great principle of ascension to things divine, that going up to the sanctuary permitted, and was imbedded in the law of the burnt offering which signified the dedication of the worshipper. 6

But these men were not 'sons of ascension'. Instead they were the very reverse, for in both speech and action they were but the 'sons of worthlessness'. They had never ascended into the heavenly places of spiritual thought and worship where Hannah walked. They had never set their affection on thing: above, for their thinking was but carnal and base.

At the most fundamental level of their lives, they knew not the Lord, 7 and it was because they knew Him not that they engaged in words and deeds of such blatant defiance. To know the Lord is a journey that moves from intellectual assent to experiential surrender.

What the counsels of the word have inscribed upon the tables of the mind, the hand of providence can then inscribe upon the tables of the heart, but only in that order. Divine principle cannot be written into human experience in the absence of its mental assimilation. But when both are joined in harmony, a person is seen who thinks and acts like God, and thereby knows Him.

Hannah was such a person, for her pledge to be the Handmaid of the Highest was to absorb first the mind of her Master, and then seek to do His bidding. Her prayer and her song revealed that she knew Him whom she served, and her speech and actions were the very antithesis of those displayed by Hophni and Phinehas.

Hannah's controversy with the sons of Eli

Was it any wonder then that Hannah could not properly partake of the fellowship meal, when they brought their peace offerings to Shiloh? There were obviously many who accepted that such ungodly behaviour was just the way things were at the sanctuary.

But evil at the house of the Lord affected Hannah far more intensely. To one whose spirit rejoiced at the thought of holy things, the blunt vulgarity of these greedy hypocrites smote her at the heart.

Peninnah was not the source of her deepest grief, but these men were. She had witnessed for herself their deliberate refusal to burn the fat unto the Lord, and she was left sick at heart at the dishonour done to Him.

She had seen firsthand the robbing of their family portion, so that their fellowship meal was ruined, and she knew the feeling of spiritual emptiness and destitution that it left behind. 33.

The real source of Hannah's adversity was not Peninnah or the Philistines, but these two men as the representatives of their own corrupt priesthood.

Was it any wonder that she was angry with such terrible dealings? She hated their spirit, and she hated it on God's behalf. 34 She shared His righteous indignation at the defiling of His ways and the corrupting of His truths.

To have known this just once would have l::~n intensely distressing. But Hannah had seen this wickedness and felt this pain for year after year, until the burden of its wrong lay so heavy upon her heart, that only black despair remained.

The yearly visit to the sanctuary became the cause of Hannah's grief, and this evidence of their treachery was the reason why. This was why she wept and could not eat.

Was it any wonder that she prayed with all her heart for a son, and vowed to give him to God? These years of agony had also been years of pleading and petition as her thoughts grew more and more focused on what she could do to resist and confront the wickedness of these men.

The intensity of her love for the Truth, and her strong desire to turn the heart of Israel back to their God, had led to this thought which captured her mind. It was so daring that it left even Hannah breathless, but she could see no other way.

Hophni and Phinehas could only be defeated by being replaced. But a better priest would not come from their line, of that she was certain. A new man offering new hope was the only way. But where was such a man to be found? Suddenly she knew. He would only be found if someone provided him. But the man she had in mind needed to be focused from the very beginning.

Only a child dedicated from infancy could achieve the outcome she sought. It was too late to train him up in the way he should go after he arrived at the sanctuary. His education must begin from the day of his birth. In fact, she wanted his journey to holiness to begin in her womb, such was the standard she would set for his life.

33 The statement that Hophni and Phinehas robbed those portions from all who brought them to Shiloh (1 Samuel 2:14), is clear evidence that Hannah had personally experienced this behaviour. This was the catalyst for her grief, and this was the focus of the record.

34 Psalm 139:21,22.

What Hannah contemplated was a battle against spiritual wickedness in high places, where the weapon of warfare would be her beloved son. In the clarity of her understanding she knew, she believed, that only by giving her firstborn could this battle be waged and a victory won. 35

Only by offering her son could her people be delivered from the thraldom of sin which bound them. But all this resided in her mind before it became real. Her son did not exist when she first envisagedhis priestly calling, but faith clothed the future with substance, and this woman of faith saw things that were not yet, as though they already were, and asked for God's help to turn vision into reality.

There was no one else in Israel who thought thus. There was no one else who implored God with such a bold and dramatic plan in mind. There was no one else prepared to pay the price of a firstborn child, who having known the joy of receiving him, would willingly suffer the pain of giving him away in the agony of accomplishment.

Hannah so loved her people that she gave her only begotten son, that the nation through him might be saved. In her, the spirit of God was seen, a living embodiment of the purpose of the Lord of hosts. This was what it meant to be the Handmaid of the Highest, and this was why God so delighted to answer the prayers of His Handmaid. He would bless her with that son which she had petitioned of Him, and in the story of Hannah and her firstborn, the purpose of God with His only begotten Son would be set forth.

The greatest battle of all, the battle against sin, would be fought and won when God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, that the world through him might be saved. Hannah's work with Samuel would point the way to the work of God, who "spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all", 36 and in his giving, freely gave us all things.

And now, with the presentation of Samuel that he might appear before the Lord, the next chapter of Hannah's controversy was about to be seen. Leaving him at Shiloh was but the first step in Hannah's plan to confront the sons of Eli. Although returned to Ramah, she was already at work to advance the conflict further, if God might but prosper her plan.

35 That Hannah saw the work of her son in terms of a warfare to be fought is confirmed by the tones of the battle hymn found within her song of thanksgiving (1 Samuel 2:1-10), See Appendix 4 - "What was the import of Hannah's special song?" on page 221, under the heading, "The riddle of the battle theme",

36 Romans 8:32.

14 And he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fleshhook brought up the priest took for himself. So they did in Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came thither.

The sin of aggressive deeds

The law was very precise regarding the portions of the peace offering. It regulated the portion for the Lord, the portion for the High Priest, the portion for the officiating priest, and the portion for the offerer. Each received their part, in descending order of importance. The order set down within the law was part of the teaching of God to uphold His supremacy.

But these men had decided to establish their own law of sacrifice, in a rule that violated all that the peace offering symbolised. They did not greet the arrival of faithful worshippers with the sense of honour that was theirs, to lift their brethren to the high calling and wonder of worship which this offering permitted. Instead, they saw it as an opportunity for personal gratification, at the expense of those who came.

They sought to intimidate, and the moment they chose was shocking. The offerer had first sacrificed a sin offering, to declare before God a full realisation of their sinful state and their desperate need for atonement in their lives.

That principle of confession was followed by a burnt offering, in that vow of renewed dedication that should always accompany the state of cleansing from sin. With those vital offerings completed, the offerer was ready to turn with joy to the fellowship meal which their peace offering promised. The animal had been sacrificed. 26

The fellowship feast was being prepared at the very time. The meat was cooking, and all the other arrangements for the meal were being finalised. They were just about to sit down and eat with God. There could be no higher occasion of fellowship than this. Yet, this was the moment that the priest's servant came to make demand in a belligerent spirit that would brook no argument.

There was no decency or decorum in their actions; only their open avarice, displayed in a sequence of aggressive deeds which left the offerer with no choice but to give up a significant part of their own fellowship portion.

26 That the term for sacrifice here (zebach) relates to the peace offering is clear, since it refers to the offerer's portion, which only occurred with the peace offering (1 Samuel 2:13,14).

The three-pronged fork or fleshhook, was one of the instruments of the sanctuary, 27 and counted as one of the holy things relating to the tabernacle. 28 They belonged to the service of the Lord, but Hophni and Phinehas took God's instruments from His altar for their own ends.

Strong enough to pull up the biggest pieces of flesh out of the pot in which the offerer's portion was cooking, they were well suited for the exercise of greed the priests had in mind. They had already received the best parts of the animal, but these men wanted more. Both the wave breast and the heave shoulder were theirs by descent and office, so they had already received the chiefest portions. But it was not enough. They wanted the best part of what was not theirs. And, so grasping was their spirit, that to fulfil their desire they were prepared to resort to ruthless and cruel intimidation. 29

They did not ask, they simply took. They arrived, and without word or warning, they plunged their fleshhook into the meat of the offerer's portions, and took it for themselves.

The spirit of giving and sharing that the offerer had joyfully submitted to, was not shared by the very priest supposed to officiate on their behalf. Theirs rather was the spirit of keeping and taking. No one was exempt. Everyone suffered the same indignity and loss, for this was their common practice with all who came to the sanctuary. It had become their settled routine of ungodly behaviour, as their spirit reached out to destroy every aspect of the worship of God in His holy place.

They challenged the portions of the offering, and by interfering with the seething of the flesh within the cauldron they destroyed the people's fellowship meal, and came between them and their God. All that was wonderful about the moment was lost in this despicable act of common theft, blatantly demanded and brazenly enforced. It was enough to make the heart despair.

But what did these men care? All that mattered was their own enrichment, without regard for consequence to others. Hannah had witnessed this spirit. She had seen the portions of the peace offerings exploited by the priests, and knew the spiritual anguish it caused.

27 The term (mazleg) relates to the fleshhooks of the altar of burnt offering (Exodus 27:3; 38:3), used to move the parts of the sacrifices on the altar. Hence, GLT - "the priest's servant came when the flesh was boiling, with the three-toothed hook in his hand" (the definite article indicating that the fleshhook was a tabernacle instrument).

28 As were all the instruments of the altar (Numbers 4:4,13-15).

29 Here was the spirit of the man of the clenched fist (Hophni) who exemplified the sin of their aggressive deeds. The phrases describing their treatment of the offerer's portions at the time of sacrifice, illustrated their entire behaviour and demeanour "the priest's servant came ... with a fleshhook", "he struck it into the pan ... all that the fleshhook brought up the priest took for himself." "So they did ... unto all the Israelites" (1 Samuel 2:13,14). The focus was upon their actions.

Bro Roger Lewis - Hannah Handmaid of the Highest

15 Also before they burnt the fat, the priest's servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have sodden flesh of thee, but raw.

16 And if any man said unto him, Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then take as much as thy soul desireth; then he would answer him, Nay; but thou shalt give it me now: and if not, I will take it by force.

Not content with robbing the offerer of their portion they came even earlier, and in effect robbed God of His. The law was insistent that not only did all the fat belong to the Lord, but that it must as a priority be offered upon His altar before any other portion be dealt with. That which belonged to Him had to be given first. There was no offering acceptable to God which denied His supremacy, or set it aside.

That principle, which lay at the heart of the fellowship meal which followed, was impressed upon the offerer as they participated in the sacrifice itself. The bringing of the Lord's own portion was the first thing the offerer attended to. In their respect for the Lord of hosts who inhabited the cherubim, they were anxious to carry this choicest part to His altar, and to witness for themselves the evidence of the fat placed upon the table. But in Shiloh, the priests used this very moment to press their claim.

They sought to interfere, and the timing of their speech was dreadful. The animal had just been slain, and the fat removed.

The portions for the priests had also been prepared, and now the one who sacrificed was ready to gather up the fat and the kidneys in their own hands, to walk to God's altar. For every Israelite, that walk brought them into the place where priests alone could minister.

High was this privilege which permitted them to draw near and present the Lord's portion at His table. And yet, it was at this moment, when all was focused upon the Lord, that the priest's servant demanded a further share of the offerer's portion, before it had even been placed in the cauldron for seething.

They had the advantage of control. They simply refused to offer the fat unto the Lord until they had been given the extra portion of raw meat they sought. And, if the truth be known, these unthankful and unholy men were sufficiently corrupt, that some of the fat of the sacrifice itself may well have been purloined to add to the flavour of their roasts.

Part of the spirit of the peace offering was that the offerer became the host, and God and His priests, his honoured guests. It was the privilege of he who sacrificed to wait upon his guests in service at this sacred meal. The wave breast and the heave shoulder were ready to be given, as soon as the Lord had received His part, and the offerer himself looked forward to partaking of a good piece of flesh and a loaf of bread.

But all that was sacred and wonderful at that moment was shattered by this demand for more.

It was to the credit of those who offered, that, faced with such obnoxious and arrogant words, they were prepared to give way, and if necessary to be defrauded in the process. Here was the peaceable spirit of those who were willing to surrender much of their own portion, provided the Lord was honoured with His rightful due.

Yet their request, consistent with the very spirit of the offering, was met with a vulgar brute demand. Hophni and Phinehas wanted what they wanted now, and were indifferent as to whether they interrupted the burning of the fat as a matter of holy priority. 30 And so determined was their desire that they did not hesitate to employ caustic and abusive threats. 31

They challenged the order of the offerings, and by interrupting the burning of the fat upon the altar, they destroyed the Lord's fellowship meal, and came between Him and His people. The offerer had come to witness the giving of the best to God, and to watch as the fat was placed upon the altar to be burnt before the Lord. And for the priests to present an ultimatum at that moment for more was scandalous.

Bluntly demanded and brutally enforced, it offended every sense of exalting God above all else, in the spirit of thanksgiving and the sacrifice of praise which the peace offering represented. How was it possible to honour God in the heart, when His primacy was ignored and thrust aside by His own representatives?

What point was there in bringing an offering and coming into His courts, when its spirit was spurned and its holiness profaned? Why would the faithful come at all? This was iniquity of the worst kind, and its damage to the spiritual life of the nation was incalculable.

30 In this passage - "Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then take as much as thy soul desireth ... Nay; but thou shalt give it me now" (1 Samuel 2:16), the word "now" is used over against the word "presently". The implication was that burning the fat unto the Lord didn't come first; giving the priest the portion he sought was to come first.

31 Here was the spirit of the man of the brazen mouth (Phinehas), who exemplified the evil of their arrogant words. The terms describing their treatment of God's portion at the time of sacrifice, revealed their whole spirit and attitude - "the priest's servant came and said ... Give flesh to roast for the priest", "if any man said him, Let them not fail to burn the fat", "then he would answer him, Nay ... I will take it by force" (1 Samuel 2:15,16). The focus was upon their speech.

Bro Roger Lewis - Handmaid of the Highest

17 Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before Yahweh: for men abhorred the offering of Yahweh.

When Hannah came to find fellowship with God, the centre of iniquity in the land was at the sanctuary itself. Her contact with these two, sent her away determined to seek the Lord's power upon her to break the cycle of the age, when every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

But this was Hannah's thought, not Elkanah's. He was a good man, a loving husband, a godly Levite. But he lacked Hannah's breadth of vision and intensity of purpose. She wanted a strong deliverer to redeem the nation from this yoke of bondage to evil. She wanted a faithful priest who could restore the nation to fellowship with God.

And she dared, she dared to dream of a son who could be both. If only she could become the Lord's instrument to that end. After all, what could she alone accomplish? She was but one woman in all Israel, insignificant and invisible. How could she overcome the evil of Hophni and Phinehas? She could not. But if God would use her, if God might direct her, then the task might be encompassed.

When this woman in her passion and her purity met these two men in their evil and iniquity, they were set on a collision course concerning the purpose of God with His people, and it was Hannah who would set that contest in motion. This would be her controversy, and God through His Handmaid would work a wondrous work indeed.

The battle was joined here and now, for in these two Hannah found her real enemies, and the episodes in this story would resound to the clash of the contest until God's will had triumphed, and the work of His Handmaid was complete.

Ever since Elkanah and his family had begun their annual journey to offer sacrifice, Hannah had been shocked by the conduct of Eli's sons. Their brazen effrontery in robbing the people of the best of their own portions, left her feeling that her spiritual offering to God had been profaned.

No one was exempt from their reach, and Hannah knew first-hand how the desecration of her sacrificial meal left her feeling sick at heart. The moment that should have been Hannah's greatest joy, had become the reason for her greatest sorrow. How many visits were needed before she determined in her heart that she would seek a way to overthrow them? How many prayers were offered that she might be granted a child for that work, even though her womb had been shut by the Lord?

Year by year, as she came to worship, this was her experience with these men, and she could not leave this evil unchallenged. Her love of the Truth was too strong to permit it. But from the moment she decided in her heart to make this request, every further visit without God's answer only aggravated her spirit further.

Every subsequent experience of their robbery pierced Hannah's heart with sorrow, until her pilgrimage became an agony. It was a mark of her astounding faith that she did not stop. Both pilgrimage and prayer continued in her life, as it must in ours. The answers to our deepest woes will only be found in our continual prayers and by our continued presence at the place of meeting.

Bro Roger Lewis - Handmaid of the Highest

When men abhorred the offering of the Lord

It wasn't just the evil of their aggressive deeds and arrogant words. Their sin lay in a contempt for divine principles which first permitted, then encouraged and finally legitimised a similar spirit of ungodliness among the people. When the priest wanders from the narrow way, it is no wonder that the people stray. 32 Those charged with the sacred responsibility to lift the nation in prayer and praise were the very ones who destroyed the spirit of the truth amidst the people of God.

Everything they did was so destructive of the real objective of godly worship. When the consecration of all one's labours brought before the Lord in holiness was rudely seized for personal gain, what was the use of striving to worship in spirit and truth?

It thoroughly disheartened the faithful, who for the most part were the only ones in the land to come to the sanctuary with their offerings at all. Worst of all, the climax of the peace offering centred on worshipping a God who desired to share a fellowship meal with His people, and at that sacred, precious, special moment, these spiritual scoundrels came and destroyed it all. To worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness was not possible in the face of such licentious behaviour.

That challenge of spiritual decline which Hannah faced so resolutely in her age, has always been present in the household of faith. Changes are made to the decorum and the dignity of the worship of God in ecclesias. Many of the changes are small, but they are always incremeiltal and in one direction.

They come about because of agitation for change, and yet a sound scriptural basis for them is frequently doubtful and most often absent. The mood of the ecclesia alters. The atmosphere declines. The sense of reverence that once touched every heart is lost by degrees which are themselves so gradual, that it seems unreasonable to object.

But over time the characteristics of vigorous spiritual life that once revolved around a reverent respect for the Lord, a deep desire to uphold the counsels of His word, and an appreciation of the greatness of His purpose, is replaced with a style more suited to the wishes of the worshippers.

Speech, dress, music, prayer, posture, order, are all made the subject of adjustment to make things more human, more relaxed, more comfortable, in a manner which unsurprisingly reflects the surrounding world. Some know that the changes are spiritually damaging to the higher purpose of the Truth. But it is easier to say nothing, less challenging to give consent through silence. This is how spiritual decline occurs.

Beware the triumph of gradualism. It begins with the few who seek to change the way of worship. It ends with the many who in practice if not in purpose, abhor the offering of the Lord. In the process, worship continues on earth, but may no longer be accepted in heaven.

The record of Hophni and Phinehas gives warning as to how spiritual life can be destroyed when ecclesial shepherds fail to guard the heritage of the Truth. It occurs when those who guide ecclesias do not know where the ancient landmark has been placed, or why it has been placed there.

Almost every custom in ecclesial life has come about because of a scripturally reasoned principle which stands behind the practice. When those in authority do not know where those boundary stones of the Truth lie, then they will not guard the Truth's heritage, and fail to pass it on safely to the next generation.

In this age, as in every previous epoch of time, there are those who seek to move the boundary stones on everything. Ignorance of where the ancient landmarks of doctrine and practice within our community lie, is not a defence that ecclesial elders can claim. To be an elder is to accept the responsibility of guarding the Truth. They of all must know where the boundaries of the Truth lie.

Where that charge of guardianship is upheld, the Truth will flourish and continue. Where it is abandoned, the Truth will eventually be lost. In both cases, ecclesial elders will be held accountable, as Hophni and Phinehas would be in their day, for safeguarding the sacred charge of the Truth.

Bro Roger Lewis - Handmaid of the Highest

18 But Samuel ministered before Yahweh, being a child, girded with a linen ephod.

An ephod was a sleeveless jacket-the outer garment of the high priest's attire, to which was attached the breastplate of judgment. In the Mosaic regulations the ephod is specified only for the high priest. But in referring to Saul's slaughter of the priests of Nob, we are told they all wore linen ephods. It was a mark of priesthood. Here we find Samuel, as a child ministering before God in this priestly garment, though he was not of the priesthood. He was a Levite, but not of the family of Aaron to which the priesthood was restricted. The only other occasion of non-priestly wearing of an ephod is when David wore one as he danced before the Ark.*

But Samuel ministered before the Lord

In truth, that warfare had already commenced, for whereas Hophni and Phinehas sinned before the Lord, Samuel ministered before Him. 37 They did what they did against the face and in defiance of God, but Samuel did what he did before the face, and in honour of God. Of a certainty, the battle was joined already, right at the place of the sanctuary, but Hophni and Phinehas did not even know that it had begun.

The conflict however was soon to emerge, for Samuel's spirit and his work was in complete contrast to these two. In his demeanour and in his example, he was everything that they were not.

It was such an unusual thing for a child to be so at home in the place of the sanctuary as

Samuel was, but within a short space of time, it seemed as if he had always belonged there.

Where then did this spirit of ministering come from? Why, from the woman whose child he was. This "asked one" left in Shiloh was uniquely Hannah's child through and through. The spirit of this woman, so deeply imbued with a love of things divine, glowed in the heart and shone in the face of this child who gladdened the spirit of all who saw him. 38

He was nought but a boy, but then he wasn't any boy. He was Hannah's child, and therein lay the secret of his role, for he absorbed his mother's spirit. His own life of Nazarite dedication would embrace Hannah's vow and make it his own. Girded with a linen ephod, 39 and already busy with his tasks, he began to reveal the seriousness of purpose that would characterise his future work in the nation.

Service at the sanctuary developed in Samuel a knowledge of the law of God, and an awareness of how little the nation knew that law. He determined to teach them. From the beginning, he was marked out for priesthood, but based upon a higher order than that of Aaron.

37 The opening "but" which with the verse begins, indicates that a deliberate contrast is intended between the little lad and these grown men. Rotherham - "But, as for Samuel, he was ministering" (1 Samuel 2:17,18).

38 There was almost a sense of wonder about the phrase - "being a child", for the record would repeat it several times (1 Samuel 2:11,18; 3:1).

39 The ephod was a distinctly priestly garment (1 Samuel 2:28; 22:18; 23:9), which was associated with the role of divine communication.

19 Moreover his mother made him a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice.

This word coat should be robe, as it is in the Revised Version. Notice the little-he was still a small child. The term is not exclusively applied to the priestly garment, as ephod is, but it is the term that is always applied to the robes of the ephod-the long garment that the high priest wore under the ephod and which was related to it.

The mention of these two garments together seems to have a special significance. We find later that Samuel offered sacrifices, which activity is by the Law restricted to the priesthood. In fact, he rebuked Saul from presuming to offer sacrifices himself and not wait for Samuel, as he had been instructed. From all this, it would appear that Samuel had an especially appointed priesthood from God.

This emphasizes the specialness of his work and position, and its typical nature-a faithful, non-Aaronic priest, who had served God all his life from his earliest youth, taking over the rulership of the land from a corrupt Aaronic priesthood and delivering it from its oppressors.*

Hannah's gift to inspire her son

While Samuel was busy with his new life at Shiloh, his mother was intent upon the nearness of their next meeting. She knew, from the day she had lent him unto the Lord, that their contact would be limited. The pilgrimage of the family in coming to Shiloh for the yearly sacrifice would be her only opportunity to connect with her son, to refocus his direction, and set the scene for the next year of his life.

All her love and care would be poured into these yearly visits. But thinking upon him and about him back at Ramah, she pondered the question of how best she could make their meeting special.

What could she do to increase her influence upon him for good? What could she bring that would leave her son with a greater sense of purpose when she returned home? She thought about it with her customary care and spiritual discernment. It needed to be something that would bind them together, but that would also inspire her son to the greatness of his calling.

Suddenly she knew the answer. She had thought of a gift that she could give him, that would need to be renewed every year, but a gift so unique, that her son would never forget it. She would make him an article of clothing, a special garment which showed him all her mother's love.

But there would be more than love involved in its making, for this garment, a little coat, was sewn with threads of purpose. Long before her journey, the little coat was ready. Carefully cut and skilfully sewn, it lay folded in a special bag she would carry with her to the sanctuary.

When that first year in Ramah was passed, and she came to Shiloh, she brought with her the little coat. Hannah had deep reasons for doing so, and they were much deeper than most people might have imagined.

When the feasts of Israel were ended, and harvest was complete, the season of autumn was heralded by the falling of the former rains. The trees, obedient to the signal of cooling days began to shed their leaves, as the starkness of winter began. In the months that followed, the land would receive a blanketing of snow as the crisp of cold increased.

There were many weeks of such cold before the comfort of spring would return in its cycle, and even Shiloh would feel the bite of those chilly days. How natural that a mother's love should seek to provide a garment to warm her child during her absence from him, that he might not be "afraid of the snow". 40

40 Proverbs 31:21.

The hidden lesson of the little coat

But this little coat was not made to keep her child warm. If it had been, she would have left it with him at Shiloh. But she didn't leave it there, she took it home to Ramah with her. Each year she brought it up, and each year she took it home. There was not so much a succession of little coats, as a succession of occasions a little coat was brought up for Samuel to wear. 41

As he grew she adjusted its size, until eventually it was replaced with a larger and longer garment. But he only ever saw the little coat once a year, and always at the same time, for she brought it with her at the yearly sacrifice.

Why did Hannah do that? Why did she not give him the coat to keep? Why did she not leave it with him there? And if she did take it home, what was the point of bringing it with her in the first place? There was a puzzle here, a mystery about the little coat which only Hannah knew. But what she intended would be made plain on her first visit to see her son.

How long it seemed to her before the time for their yearly sacrifice came again. It was exactly one year since she had left him at Shiloh, but the wait for its anniversary seemed interminable. Yet now, at last they were there again, and the moment had come. A message had been sent to fetch the child, and as she waited at the door of the tabernacle, she trembled in anticipation. What would he look like? How would he behave? What was he feeling?

She need not have been concerned. "Ima, Ima", shouted Samuel in excitement, as he sped to his mother. "Shalom, ha-ben sheh" she cried, as she knelt to receive him, and as she held him tight, she noticed that his head was already now above her shoulder. Her little boy had grown in stature. He was just as high as she had imagined him to be. She knew both laughter and tears, but these were tears of happiness which welled up within her as deep as the spring of her motherhood itself.

How blessed she was. How thankful she felt for this moment. And, as was always the case in Hannah's life, there was a deep sense of purpose to this meeting, that even her boy realised, as she looked upon him so intently. Ever after, Samuel would remember that gaze of his mother. It was at once warm and earnest, loving and kind, but her eyes were the eyes of one whose mind looked ahead to higher things.

"I have brought you a present" she said, and from the bag which lay beside her, she drew forth a garment, and held it out for him to see. "This is a special robe which reminds me that you are a priest now. I hope it will help to remind you too. This will be your special gift to wear while we are together, you and I, at the sanctuary. It is like the robe that Eli wears, but I have made it just for you."

She was glad that she had rightly estimated his height. Slipping the robe over his head and shoulders, she adjusted it upon his form until it fitted perfectly. Standing back, she looked at him intently, and then nodded with satisfaction. "It fits you well" she said, turning him around to see him from all angles. "And now, you must tell me what you have been doing at the sanctuary."

41 In the Hebrew, the phrase - "from year to year" does not govern the action of making the coat, but the action of bringing the coat. Hence YLT -

"and a small upper coat doth his mother make to him, and she hath brought it up to him from time to time, in her coming up with her husband to sacrifice the sacrifice of the time" (1 Samuel 2:19).

The clear meaning of the passage is to indicate that Hannah brought up the little coat each year, which also meant that she took it home with her.

Hannah's action in clothing him with that robe was extraordinary. This was her peaceful yet powerful repudiation of Hophni and Phinehas, and their vile priesthood. Hannah could not openly oppose these men. She had no force at her disposal to order their removal, or to place them on trial. But she could place the little coat over the shoulders of her son, and-in that simple act of quiet determination, she disassociated herself completely from their work and would have no part of it.

The moment was so unobtrusive, and so natural between mother and child, that the sons of Eli would not have even noticed. Yet Hannah declared in that singular deed that she recognised Samuel as her sole legitimate priestly representative. He might be only little, but he was her priest in principle.

This was why she only brought up the little coat once in a year. The high priest did not always wear the robe of the ephod and the ephod, but only while he fulfilled his priestly office. Hannah sought to clothe Samuel for a similar purpose, but she was not proclaiming him to be the priestly representative for the nation. That would be a matter for God Himself to decide and for God Himself to confirm.

But he could be her priest in prospect. And she claimed that right only in the context of her own appearance at the sanctuary once a year. At that moment, at that time, she declared her rejection of Hophni and Phinehas, even while submitting to their ungodly behaviour. But her resistance, silent yet strong, showed her absolute conviction that in this child lay the hope of a new and better priesthood.

The story of 'the mother and the child' that would echo into the New Testament and into one gospel especially, had its beginning here in the story of Hannah and Samuel. Her influence upon him was profound, and through this child, requested of God and returned unto Him, she brought spiritual deliverance to her people.

The little coat was his calling to office, and his mother would reinforce its meaning with more understanding each year, as she visited her son. And in clothing him so, she inspired him, for that one single action was so full of meaning, so rich with import, that it set the boy's heart alight for the rest of his life.

Who but Hannah could have knewn how powerfully the story of the robe would operate upon her child? All that she intended was blessed by God, for what she did in faith truly set the direction of Samuel's entire life. He accepted the burden of responsibility which that robe put upon his shoulders, and in spirit he never put it off.

The little coat became the mark and the badge of his special calling for the rest of his long and faithful life. 43 When Samuel was grown to manhood, his flowing mantle and flowing locks declared his priesthood, but not according to the order of Aaron. His priesthood came from a higher source. 44

43 The word for the little coat (me-iyl) is also the word used for the mantle which Samuel wore throughout his life, and for which he became famous (1 Samuel 15:27; 28:13,14).

44 His priesthood was of Nazarite origin and therefore stood outside the Aaronic order. Its voluntary nature rendered it superior to the Aaronic priesthood in certain vital respects, relating to the character of the person so dedicated, and in all this Samuel would foreshadow the Lord.

Hannah's action in clothing him with that robe was extraordinary. This was her peaceful yet powerful repudiation of Hophni and Phinehas, and their vile priesthood. Hannah could not openly oppose these men. She had no force at her disposal to order their removal, or to place them on trial. But she could place the little coat over the shoulders of her son, and-in that simple act of quiet determination, she disassociated herself completely from their work and would have no part of it.

The moment was so unobtrusive, and so natural between mother and child, that the sons of Eli would not have even noticed. Yet Hannah declared in that singular deed that she recognised Samuel as her sole legitimate priestly representative. He might be only little, but he was her priest in principle.

This was why she only brought up the little coat once in a year. The high priest did not always wear the robe of the ephod and the ephod, but only while he fulfilled his priestly office. Hannah sought to clothe Samuel for a similar purpose, but she was not proclaiming him to be the priestly representative for the nation. That would be a matter for God Himself to decide and for God Himself to confirm.

But he could be her priest in prospect. And she claimed that right only in the context of her own appearance at the sanctuary once a year. At that moment, at that time, she declared her rejection of Hophni and Phinehas, even while submitting to their ungodly behaviour. But her resistance, silent yet strong, showed her absolute conviction that in this child lay the hope of a new and better priesthood.

The story of 'the mother and the child' that would echo into the New Testament and into one gospel especially, had its beginning here in the story of Hannah and Samuel. Her influence upon him was profound, and through this child, requested of God and returned unto Him, she brought spiritual deliverance to her people.

The little coat was his calling to office, and his mother would reinforce its meaning with more understanding each year, as she visited her son. And in clothing him so, she inspired him, for that one single action was so full of meaning, so rich with import, that it set the boy's heart alight for the rest of his life.

Who but Hannah could have knewn how powerfully the story of the robe would operate upon her child? All that she intended was blessed by God, for what she did in faith truly set the direction of Samuel's entire life. He accepted the burden of responsibility which that robe put upon his shoulders, and in spirit he never put it off.

The little coat became the mark and the badge of his special calling for the rest of his long and faithful life. 43 When Samuel was grown to manhood, his flowing mantle and flowing locks declared his priesthood, but not according to the order of Aaron. His priesthood came from a higher source. 44

43 The word for the little coat (me-iyl) is also the word used for the mantle which Samuel wore throughout his life, and for which he became famous (1 Samuel 15:27; 28:13,14).

44 His priesthood was of Nazarite origin and therefore stood outside the Aaronic order. Its voluntary nature rendered it superior to the Aaronic priesthood in certain vital respects, relating to the character of the person so dedicated, and in all this Samuel would foreshadow the Lord.

20 And Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife, and said, Yahweh give thee seed of this woman for the loan which is lent to Yahweh. And they went unto their own home.

As her time with Samuel came to its close, Hannah felt again the same sense of impending loss that she had known on her previous journey home from Shiloh. 1 Her visit to the sanctuary had been filled with such purpose, that only now did the reality of departure bring its turmoil. It was to be another bitter-sweet moment. The sunlight of her joy at seeing Samuel would be darkened by the cloud of her sorrow at leaving him.

She was even more convinced of the rightness of her actions, and not a little comforted that her boy was well, and even thriving in his new home. But now, she had to brace herself for the journey that would take her away from his side. Her thankfulness at his present state of safety, jostled with the emptiness of the long road to Ramah, and the even longer year which stretched out ahead of her before she would see her son again. But before she and Elkanah left, there was to be a startling development that would transform her life, and lead her again into the light.

Following their normal practice, 2 they rose early on the day of their departure to spend a last moment at the sanctuary. The morning service began by offering the daily lamb with its meal and drink offering. 3 The offering of the daily, was in turn the signal to burn the morning incense before the veil that was by the ark of the covenant. 4 It was customary for worshippers to await the priestly blessing, which followed the offering of the incense. To those who remained came the comforting words -

"Yahweh bless thee, and keep thee: Yahweh make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: Yahweh lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace". 5

Hannah knew those words, and treasured them as the climax of the meal which followed her peace offering. They embodied that exalted state of fellowship with her God that she sought so earnestly in her sanctuary visits.

1 Isaiah 49:15.

2 1 Samuel 1:19.

3 Exodus 29:39,40.

4, Exodus 30:6,7.

5 Numbers 6:22-27.

Bro Roger Lewis - Handmaid of the Highest Ch 6

The wonder of Eli's priestly blessing

But this time, for Hannah, the priestly blessing would take an additional and altogether more wonderful form. As their visit came to an end, Eli, watching their preparations for departure moved forward to intercept them. 6

The words he was about to speak were not for the hearing of others, but for Elkanah and herself alone, and it was Eli who was anxious to initiate this meeting. Ineffective though he had been in disciplining his own sons, he clearly had an affinity for Samuel, and a genuine admiration for the spiritual integrity of his parents.

Hannah especially commanded the respect of the old priest, and her appearance at the sanctuary a year after leaving Samuel there, prompted a warm response on his part. Her son had already profoundly touched him, as had her own example, and in this 'child of God' and his faithful mother, Eli saw all that he had lost in his own family.

Eli had never forgotten his dramatic meetings with this woman, nor the power of her amazing faith. The presence of Samuel at the sanctuary every day brought her story vividly back to his mind.

The magnitude of her gift so deeply affected him that he felt compelled to speak. As he looked upon the woman and her husband, Eli pronounced a blessing upon them. He spoke in his capacity as High Priest, and his words were more than the expression of a pious wish. They were given under divine inspiration, and with the prophetic insight of the Lord's spokesman, as the record would later confirm. 7

His priestly blessing would involve them both, but it was clear that the basis of the blessing related to Hannah's vow, and especially to her gift. 8 It was a moment that Hannah would remember ever after with deepest gratitude, that moment when Eli drew near to them both.

He began by addressing Elkanah, but almost immediately fixed his eyes on Hannah, 9 as he explained the reason for the divine blessing. The offspring to be promised were in return "for the loan which is lent to Yahweh", and as Eli said this, a look of understanding passed between he and Hannah which could not be mistaken. 10

It was his promise to her in person that he recognised her offering, and acknowledged the child as God's. He would do what he could to watch over him on her behalf. Hannah then, was the cause of this spontaneous outpouring by Eli, as he foretold that the Lord Himself would bring a fulness of recompense into their lives in return for her supreme gift - the gift of her firstborn son. Here was priestly intercession indeed.

6 The juxtaposition of the phrases, "And Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife", followed by, "And they went unto their own home" (1 Samuel 2:20) suggests that this blessing was given at the point of their departure.

7 The High Priest was the channel of divine communication in Israel, and Eli's words were followed by the comment that the Lord did indeed visit Hannah in fulfilment of this message. This promise was of God (cp. John 11:51).

8 Note the link between Hannah's words, "I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto Yahweh" (1 Samuel 1:26), and Eli's, "Yahweh give thee seed of this woman for the loan which is lent to Yahweh" (1 Samuel 2:20).

9 The natural reading of the passage would suggest that Eli directed his attention to Elkanah, but then looked directly at Hannah with the pronouncement' of the words "give thee seed of this woman". It would have been quite incongruous to utter them whilst ignoring her.

10 The scripture is decisive in this matter. The words of Hannah were - "Yahweh hath given me my petition which I have asked of him: therefore also I have lent him to Yahweh; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to Yahweh" (1 Samuel 1:27,28). The loan was Hannah's, and the words of Eli were God's response to her loan.

Under the guidance of the Spirit, the terms of Eli's blessing evoked memories of an earlier occasion where a special woman was empowered to bear a special son in the purpose of God. 11

Ruth had been the subject of a similar blessing by the Lord. Her story was probably known to Hannah, its outcome a source of comfort to her now as she absorbed the wonder of Eli's words. She had every reason to believe him. After all, his previous intercession on her behalf had been heard. 12 Why should this blessing on his part not also be effective?

How excited Hannah must have felt to hear this solemn proclamation. Here was the promise of repayment for her offering. She had not sought it, for her offering was unconditional, but it must have been a thing of wonder all the same.

Yet this blessing of children, following the giving of Samuel illustrated a principle. God has promised to reward the spirit of those who show care for others, and those who give to the poor are the subjects of His personal requital. 13 By what means and in what measure He might repay lies within His sovereign prerogative, but that He will do so, is a matter of testimony. In Hannah's case, she had given to alleviate the nation's spiritual poverty, and Eli's blessing was the proof that the Lord would recompense her work.

Nor was this a single act of blessing on Eli's part, heard only on this visit, when Hannah first brought her little coat. He was so moved by the giving of the child, that he repeated his blessing in successive years. 14

Each year Elkanah and Hannah made their pilgrimage, and each year Eli pronounced his priestly blessing upon them before they went home. Hannah's life was marked by a yearly celebration of Samuel's priestly work, and a yearly promise of further fruitfulness. How aglow with happiness she must have been on her journey home to Ramah, not only this time, but in subsequent years as well. The Lord had made His face to shine upon His Handmaid.

11 The account is certainly similar - "of the seed which Yahweh shall give thee of this young woman. So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife: and when he went in unto her, Yahweh gave her conception; and she bare a son" (Ruth 4:12,13).

12 1 Samuel 1:17-19.

13 Psalm 112:9; Proverbs 19:17; 22:9; 28:27.

14 That this was not a single act on Eli's part is evidenced by the text. Rotherham _ "And Eli used to bless Elkanah and his wife and say"; RSV - "Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife ... then they would return to their home".

21 And Yahweh visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare 3 sons and 2 daughters. And the child Samuel grew before Yahweh.

Upon Hannah then came the blessing of divine visitation and favour, similar not only to Ruth, but reminiscent of Sarah of old. Like Sarah, Hannah suffered from an impediment to conception, which prevented her from bearing children. rs And like Sarah, the reversal of that predicament came by means of the visitation of God in her life. 16

The result was a child of special significance and destiny, Samuel being in his generation another Isaac. But this promise that came upon her now concerned the bringing forth of further offspring, in a blessing that was centred on Hannah herself. 17

This time the promise of seed was the promise of an entire family, made possible in the firstborn son who had been given. They would be brought into being because of he who had gone before them. In a sense, they owed their existence to him, in a way which would be true also of Christ's brethren. 18 And these five, like Samuel, would all count Hannah as their mother.

The birth and nurture and weaning of Samuel had aroused all of Hannah's maternal traits. His giving left her as a woman yearning for motherhood, but unable to express it. And as the mother that she had already proved herself to be, it was in the justice and love of God that He visited His Handmaid in fulfilment of the words of prophecy given by His priest.

The measure of the Lord's recompense was gracious indeed, for unto Hannah He gave five children in return for her one. In these five children, who would be rightfully hers to raise at home, Hannah received a full measure of the Father's grace upon her.

In the goodness of God, Hannah's life, from the time Samuel was left at the sanctuary, was filled with the pleasure of child rearing for many years. The aching void that had been in her heart was filled by a loving God who thereby honoured His Handmaid.

But none of these, despite their excellent upbringing, would play any part in the purpose of God, such as would be recorded in the book of books. Their lives may have been of the highest standard of godliness, given their godly parents, but only Samuel would receive a mention.

The Bible was not a record of family history, or of personal achievement, but was instead the chronicle of divine purpose. Both Hannah and Samuel would only find their place in holy writ because of the part they each played in the greater plan of God.

15 Their respective accounts show the similarity. Sarah (Genesis 11:30; 16:2; Romans 4:19), and Hannah (1 Samuel 1:2,5,6). Both women needed the divine hand upon them.

16 The account here that "Yahweh visited Hannah, so that she conceived and bare" is a direct echo of Sarah's experience - "And Yahweh visited Sarah as he had said ... For Sarah conceived and bare" (Genesis 21:1,2). These are the only two women in scripture who are said to have been visited by God to enable their conception.

17 Notice the way in which the phrase, "And Eli blessed Elkanah" is given its sequel in the succeeding phrase, "And Yahweh visited Hannah" (1 Samuel 2:20,21).

18 Hebrews 2:11,12.

The arrival of five more children [ in addition to Samuel - 3 sons and 2 daughtersspanned a period of several years. 19 It was a busy time in Hannah's life. Her burgeoning household of precious children brought such fulfilment and happiness, that Hannah felt her cup was running over. And no matter how small her children were, even the babe in arms was brought on the sacred visit each year to the sanctuary.

It was a mark of their faithfulness, that their visits did not cease. Their spirit of dedication had always brought them to the place where God met with His people. But now, the importance of seeing Samuel again, and observing his growth gave added impetus to their journeys.

On several of these visits, Hannah had a new brother or sister to introduce to Samuel, and he became aware of his family connections, which were strengthened with each passing year. Eli also saw these little ones, and rejoiced to know that the Almighty had blessed this woman and her husband with the fruit of the womb.

When Hannah brought these children with her to Shiloh, they learned that although Samuel was their brother, he lived at the sanctuary, and had his place and daily tasks at the tabernacle. It was strange for them to meet him there, but they needed to understand that their older brother was called to a special calling, and that even now, he was involved in the work of his Father.

He was of their household, and yet he was different. Their experience would be shared in another age by another family from Nazareth, who also had to learn of their older brother's higher calling in God's sight. 20

Despite the lively bustle of these times, and the busy activity of her household, Hannah never forgot to bring the little coat to Shiloh each year for the continued instruction of her firstborn. The graciouS provision of other children did not deviate her from her purpose in Samuel.

This child was still the embodiment of her highest spiritual objectives, and already to her observant eye, he was a child no longer, but a lad with the first signs of manhood upon him. Each year, she noticed every change, and was content that her early instruction had laid deep foundations for his entire life. 21

But his instruction now lay with another, for while Hannah lived in Ramah, and rejoiced to raise her other sons and daughters, Samuel remained in God's special care. The transfer was complete. He was a son in his Father's house now, made possible by the sacrifice of his mother who had surrendered him to the future she believed in.

In that house, he abode under the shadow of the Almighty, and in that secret place, he grew before the Lord. This was His son now, and He would mark the stages of his development. Every year he increased in wisdom and in stature, and God was fully involved in the raising of the child. 22 He did not just grow before the Lord, but grew with Him. 23

How wonderfully was Hannah's confidence in giving her son to God vindicated. All that was necessary for the child's care and growth was provided by Him who neither slumbers nor sleeps. He would be the boy's keeper, and He would preserve him from all evil, both in his going out and his coming in. 24

19 It may be estimated that this was at least ten years. Mothers nursed their offspring for longer in ancient times, and the cycle of bearing children was likewise extended. Keturah bore six sons, and (based on the assumption that they came between Ishmael and Isaac) did so over a period of thirteen years (Genesis 25:2; 16:16; 17:1).

20 John 7:2-5.

21 Early childhood development studies have noted the critical importance of the first

three years in a child's life, as setting the basis for their entire future. It was these three years of fervent nurture that Hannah gave as a lifetime gift to her son. Their power to direct should not be underestimated.

22 God used an agency of course, in the form of Eli and others, who taught Samuel.

But the record indicates that God nevertheless was the real superintendent of the child's growth, consistent with the higher purpose He had marked out for Samuel.

23 The word "before" here (im not paniym) is better translated this way. Hence Rotherham _ "Thus did the boy Samuel grow up with Yahweh".

24 Psalm 121:4-8.

22 Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

The woman that assembled at the door

The males of all three families of the Levites, Kohath, Gershon and Merari were appointed to the charge of the sanctuary. But the work assigned to these men demanded such commitment and loyalty to God, such effort and endeavour, that their calling became a commission to the warfare of the tabernacle service. 25

Whatever their specific duties might have been, they were seen to be engaged in the warfare of God's truth. Mustered and assembled, organised and conscripted for service, these Levites in their collective multitude constituted the hosts of God. 26 The military figure of the fighting hosts and their serried ranks of soldiers, was echoed in the order and control of these ministers of the sanctuary.

There was something very disciplined about their labours, for the service of the tabernacle required a great deal of organisation and routine for its proper continuance. That spirit of warfare would find its counterpart in the structure and activity of the ecclesias of God in later times. 27

But there were females associated with this battle as well, for from the beginning there were willing-hearted women who gave gifts for the tabernacle. 28 Some went further, for even before the Levites were set to their tasks, there was a company of devoted women who loved the Truth with such fervour that they assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

These gave their looking-glasses unto Moses for the fashioning of the laver, renouncing the outward adorning to uphold the principle of inward washing.

If the Levites were God's hosts, then these faithful women were God's troops, 29 for they also had come to war the warfare, and to devote themselves to the sanctuary. Their work may have included some role as porters at the entranceway, with their companies as troops replacing one another that a group might always be on watch in that place. 30

As time progressed however and the routine of tabernacle worship was established, the men were confirmed as the porters in their office, 31 whilst other tasks would naturally fall to the lot of these women who dedicated themselves in such a way. These holy women spent their lives in devotion to spiritual things.

Sanctuary worship involved holy instruments, holy utensils, holy garments, and holy provisions, and there were daily tasks required for the use and maintenance of all these. Whether in making, or cleansing, or preparing; whether in fasting, or praying, or singing, they served at the sanctuary, and contributed to the spiritual life of the nation which was centred in that place.

To these honourable women were added yet others who augmented their numbers for the work of ministration. During the battle against Midian, Moses placed a levy upon the womenfolk who were captured, which provided female ministers for the service of the tabernacle, all of whom were virgins. 32

It is likely that most of these remained unmarried, and attached to the tabernacle as part of the retinue of sanctuary servants. They appear to have been present at Shiloh in an earlier time of the judges, 33 and even now in Hannah's time, such godly attendants evidently still resided in the tabernacle compound. 34

A handmaid, who probably waited on the priests, was employed as a message bearer in David's time. 35 The building of the house of God under Solomon did not alter this practice, as the temple arrangements were of such greater magnitude, that the need for ministrants was only increased.

The work and the role of such virgins continued through many generations, for centuries later at the overthrow of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, the sacking of the temple was mourned as a national calamity which affected both the priests and the virgins of the sanctuary. 36

There was a special degree of dedication in such virgins. Exempt from the commitments of family life, they focused on the privilege of ministering, devoted in their work to attend upon the Lord without distraction.

The example of these faithful ministers survived even to the time of Christ, 37 and within the ecclesias there would be women who served in similar devotion, and with apostolic approval. Their highest joy was to care for the things that belong to the Lord, 38 and "freedom in service I would find" was the song of their life.

25 Their appointment is recorded with the term tsaba, which is rendered as both host, and (margin) warfare (Numbers 4:3,23,30). Similarly, the law prescribing their length of active service uses the same term tsaba (Numbers 8:24-26).
26 The following note is instructive - "tsaba has to do with fighting [but] it has also a wider use in the sense of rendering service. Interestingly four uses have to do with the work of the Levites in the tent of meeting. No doubt service for Yahweh is seen as involving total dedication and careful regimentation, and since God is Yahweh of hosts, enthroned between the cherubim housed inside the tent of meeting, work associated with the tent may be considered spiritual war" - (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, page 750).
27 It is more than possible that this theme of spiritual warfare (tsaba) forms an Old Testament basis for the apostolic expression - "This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy ... that thou by them mightest war a good warfare" (1 Timothy 1:18).
28 Exodus 35:22-29.
29 The reference to these devoted women occurs before the distribution of Levitical tasks noted in the early chapters of Numbers (Exodus 38:8). The expression - "the women assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation", is given in the margin as "assembled by troops". This is correct, as the word here is another participle of tsaba.
30 The phrase "assembled at the door" (Exodus 38:8) suggests this. GLT - "the serving women, those assembling who served at the door". That their service might originally have involved an aspect of door keeping is consistent with the role of women in other passages who were used in this capacity. The LXX refers to a female porter in the house of Ishbosheth (2 Samuel 4:6, cp. also Josephus: Ant. book 7, chapter 2, paragraph 1). A damsel kept the door at the palace of the High Priest (John 18:16,17), and Rhoda acted as the porter in the house where the ecclesia met (Acts 12:13).
31 1 Chronicles 9:19-27.
32 The women spared were all virgins (Numbers 31:35), of whom thirty-two were placed under the authority of Eleazar as High Priest elect (Numbers 31:40,41), and three hundred and twenty were given to the Levites for assistance in the service of the tabernacle (Numbers 31:47).
33 Judges 21:19-21.
34 The phrase used - "the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle" (1 Samuel 2:22) clearly suggests a continuity of practice from the time of Moses (Exodus 38:8).
35 2 Samuel 17:17.
36 "All her gates are desolate: her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness" (Lamentations 1:4). The mention of priests and virgins together is unique to this passage, and indicates that even five hundred years after Hannah's time there was still a contingent of faithful women associated with the matters of sanctuary worship.

37 The example of Anna being witness, of whom it states - "she ... departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day" (Luke 2:37).

The "women who assembled at the door" then, was a phrase expressive of the highest spirit of dedication. Here were women, "holy in both body and spirit", who gave themselves in service so completely, that their lives were an offering of praise. In all they did, they did it as unto the Lord, and for the sake of His honour.

It was these women that Hophni and Phinehas committed immorality with. It seemed incomprehensible. Perhaps they were far removed from the godly spirit of those who gave their mirrors to Moses in rejecting the vanity of outward appearance.

If so, then they were but a reflection of how far the Truth had fallen in the time of Eli's sons. But, given the special character of these godly and faithful ministers, it is far more likely that these women, dependent as they were on priestly approval for their food, and clothing, and lodging, had been bluntly told that more was expected of them if they wanted to remain. For such, with no other place of abode or livelihood, their situation was made precarious by their very devotion to the tabernacle system.

Vulnerable, and unable to defend their cause, they may have been compelled to acquiesce against their will. If this were true, then it marked the depth of depravity which these evil men had descended to.

There could be nothing more despicable than that those who upheld the holiness of the sanctuary should themselves be the subject of such an offence by the priests of that sanctuary.

Hannah, married, and safely living in Ramah with her own family obligations was not present at the tabernacle to witness such depravity, but in spirit she belonged there. She had heard of this terrible behaviour against the women who assembled, and felt their same sense of violation.

23 And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people. 

Ye make the Lord's people to transgress

The tragedy of Eli's lack of leadership lay not just in the fact that his own sons became wayward, but in the spread of spiritual decline they caused within the nation. His poor example in wilfully disregarding the wrong of his sons had brought this evil consequence upon all Israel that came to worship.

"I hear of your evil dealings by all this people"

he said, and condemned himself by this admission. Their wickedness was so notorious that it was evidenced by widespread and general complaint. The life led by the priests so publicly in the sanctuary with their scornful abuse of holy ordinances, 43 and their unblushing immorality, 44 had corrupted the inner religious life of the whole nation, so as to make them transgress.

That transgression was seen in a people where some cried out 45 in either pain or protest at priests who violated God's

law and profaned His holy things. Foremost among these was Hannah, who cried out indeed, but directed her cry to God, and sought to be part of His answer. Others no longer wished to honour God or to worship Him, for they abhorred the offering of the Lord. 46

The wickedness and excess of the priests had led them to such despair that they no longer came to the sanctuary at all. When the effect of God's priests was to cause others to cease their worship, 47 then this was a sin of the worst kind.

Still others delighted to follow the corrupt teaching of the priests, and join a form of worship so far removed from God's holy law that it was a travesty of His teaching. Yet even in rebuke, Eli was sadly ineffective.

"Nay, my sons; it is no good report that I hear: ye make Yahweh's people to transgress"

he said, but his words lacked power, and in the absence of any consequences would bring about no change.

Here was the source of Hannah's grief, and the reason for her actions. She believed that the impact of these men in destroying the spiritual worship of the nation was inexcusable in those who knew better. Of all those in Israel, the priests held a special responsibility to guide the people aright. Moses had delivered the law into

"the hands of the priests the sons of Levi, which bare the ark". 48

To them fell the task of reading the law before all Israel, that they might hear, and learn, and fear, and do. Upon them came the work of reading distinctly in the law of God, to give the sense and cause the hearers to understand the reading. Hannah herself had most probably heard the book of the law, as it was read in the solemnity of the year of release in the feast of tabernacles. 49

She, personally felt the sacredness of that charge as a member of the priestly tribe, 50 but Eli did not guard the responsibilities of the priesthood with sufficient zeal to hold his sons accountable.

The principal task of the priests in Israel was to set forth the law of God in truth, and their sternest condemnation came because of their failure to do so. 51 For Hophni and Phinehas not only to sin in their own lives, but cause others to go astray, was a double sin, and a rejection of all that their priesthood implied.

Many generations later, a prophet of God would describe the evil of the priests in his own day with these scathing words -

"For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of Yahweh of hosts. But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith Yahweh of hosts". 52

Alas, the spirit of Hophni and Phinehas would live on beyond their own age, and corrupt generations yet to come. The condemnation that was about to be uttered against the sons of Eli would come down upon the heads of these priests who followed them, and the same God to whom Hannah addressed her vow, would judge them. Their destiny would be decided by the Lord of hosts, and they would not escape.

43 1 Samuel 2:12-17.

44 1 Samuel 2:22,23.

45 See margin for "to transgress" where the alternative is "to cry out" (1 Samuel 2:24).

46 1 Samuel 2:17.

47 The phrase - "ye make Yahweh's people to transgress" (abar - to pass beyond) is translated by LXX - "ye make Yahweh's people cease to worship him".

48 The connection between the teaching of the law and the care of the ark revealed how special was the charge which lay upon the priestly tribe (Deuteronomy 31:9). If the ark was the symbol of the divine presence among His people, then the law was the sign of the divine will and mind in their midst. The priest's role to teach God's will, and faithfully handle His law was their highest duty.

49 Deuteronomy 31:10-12.

50 As witnessed by her vow, her loan, her speech, her song, her visits, her coat. In all the major episodes of Hannah's life there would be continual references to the teaching of the Law of Moses. It was evident that Hannah passionately believed in the law of her God, and acted in accordance with its requirements.

51 Hence this recurring refrain throughout the prophets - "the priests ... that handle the law knew me not" (Jeremiah 2:8), "her priests have violated my law" (Ezekiel 22:26), "thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God" (Hosea 4:6,9), "her priests ... have done violence to the law" (Zephaniah 3:4).

52 Malachi 2:7,8.

24 Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make Yahweh's people to transgress.

At some point, Eli's age prevented him from supervising all the tabernacle activities personally. Since there was no term of office for high priests, only death or illness prevented his continued service. 39

There must have been a gradual stepping back from more strenuous activities however, occasioned by Eli's increasing infirmity and frailty. In the end, the tinkling of the golden bells which signified that the high priest ministered in the sanctuary was heard no more. 40 The sounds of his service were silenced, stilled by the fact that he could no longer stand, but took instead his place as an observer only, whilst sitting on his seat. 41

But even before that time had come, his sons had established a corrupt form of worship which he had neglected to challenge, and failed to check. Now his advanced years made it impossible for him to reverse it. He was no longer in charge. The sons of Belial were in control.

From where he sat, he did hear of all their evil dealings, for the people came to make their complaint before him. He could not pretend to be ignorant of those things which were common knowledge, nor could he deny those sins which so many in Israel had informed him of.

He knew beyond doubt that their spirit was very wrong. But there had been too many occasions where Eli had not 'frowned upon them' in rebuke. 42

Both as High Priest and as their father, he had the authority to curb their evil, and if necessary to remove them from office. But this he would not do, and in the end, that failure to correct and to discipline enabled their poor behaviour to be imbedded in their characters.

There was nothing to the credit of Eli in this matter. His unwillingness to direct his sons in the way of truth was a sin against God, a sin against his people, a sin against his sons, and a sin against himself.

Now at the last however, after years of wilful neglect, something caused the old priest to speak with his sons in rebuke. Perhaps the presence of the child at Shiloh and the visits of his mother contributed to Eli's final protest. Prompted by her holiness and Samuel's godliness, his conscience was stirred to perceive the full iniquity of his sons, and stirred sufficiently to utter a last despairing witness against them.

It was of course too late. The horrifying story of the virgins defiled proved that his sons had reached the point of no return. Nothing would now deviate them from their chosen course of action. Their father was powerless to stop what he himself had first condoned, and even this final remonstrance was far too mild to bring about change.

He had brought neither his power nor his authority to bear on their discipline and guidance, and it would be to his ruin and theirs. The charge of too little, too late, lay upon Eli, and God would hold him to account for that failure.

When matters of wrong doctrine or wrong conduct are made manifest in ecclesial life, the answer never lies in ignoring them. Wrong, left unchallenged, spreads and widens - it never diminishes.

It is a strange perversity within human nature, that justifies leaving such ills unchallenged. Many a heartache in the ecclesia of the living God has occurred because changes to the detriment of the Truth have been introduced, and left undealt with. The mistaken idea that such problems will resolve themselves leads to compromise under the guise of compassion.

Seeking to guard the heritage of the Truth is not an invitation to be aggressive or confrontational. All our dealings must be conducted in the spirit of Christ, and in a manner as becometh saints. But the Truth is of such precious value that when a matter arises which strikes at the foundation of Our faith, to turn a blind eye or a deaf ear, is to be complicit by that silence which becomes consent.

This was Eli's sin, made darker by its contrast with the light of Hannah's quiet but determined striving against the same evil, which he would not oppose.

Bro Roger Lewis - Handmaid of the Highest Ch 6

25 If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against Yahweh, who shall intreat for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because Yahweh would slay them.

Judge is Heb. Elohim!

...who could interpose between the Almighty and the one who sinned against Him?

When their opponent in controversy was the Lord Himself, who indeed could intercede for them. 55 No man could stand between the parties as mediator or advocate, God's sovereign majesty could not permit it. At best, a sinner might have sought the intercession of the Lord's priest. But in the case of Hophni and Phinehas, who had personally sinned against the Lord, who could they go to for intercession? They already were the priests.

In the matter of their sin, there was no one who could interpose, none who could intreat God on their behalf. Their sins had left them defenceless before the judgment of God, and there was none to deliver. Eli pleaded with his sons to realise the enormous predicament they had placed themselves in.

But if they were unable to intercede for their own sins, then they were unable to intreat for others also. Their special role as intercessors for Israel was made null and void by their evil. Hannah knew this. It was part of her adversity, that the nation had been deprived of their appointed means of approach to God through the blessing of priesthood. This was one of the very things that she sought for in seeking another priest that might arise in Israel.

And truly, the answer of God in the provision of Samuel, and her subsequent visits after he had been dedicated, only confirmed everything she had ever thought. The only difference was, that now she could bear with equanimity the wickedness of that place, she could suffer the evil of their priesthood, in the knowledge that the Lord of hosts was at work, and that a foundation for change had already been laid.

53 In the text of the phrase "the judge shall judge him" the noun is Elohim. Most translations render it as God, which is consistent with the context. It is true that He judged the case by means of his earthly representatives, who bore the name of Elohim (Exodus 22:8,9,28; Psalm 82:1-8), but through their agency, God Himself became the arbitrator.

54 Disagreements between brother and brother were to be brought before the priests who clearly acted on God's behalf to judge in such matters (Deuteronomy 17:8-13;19:17-19; 25:1).

55 To "judge" and to "intreat" here are both the word palal. The force of the proverb lies in the use of the same word, but in different voices. The first "shall judge him" is in the Piel and means to arbitrate. The second "shall intreat for him" is in the Hithpael and means to mediate. In the first, to intervene, in the second to intercede.

28 And did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest [kol Shivtei Yisroel to be Kohen to Me], to offer upon mine altar, to burn incense [ascend Mine Mizbe'ach, to burn ketoret], to wear an ephod before me? [ in My presence?] and did I give unto the house of thy father all the offerings made by fire of the children of Israel [Bais Avicha all the fire offerings of the Bnei Yisroel?]

The stranger who approached Eli on that fateful day immediately declared his calling. "Thus saith the LORD" he began, and Eli knew that he was in the presence of God's spokesman. It mattered not where he had come from, he spoke with divine authority, and as his message unfolded, Eli doubted not that it was so. He began with a series of questions which reminded Eli of the wonderful privileges attached to his household. They were not intended to be answered aloud, but rhetorical though they were, Eli knew full well what they conveyed. In three short phrases, the fulness of the priestly office was gathered up.

"Did I plainly appear unto the house of thy father? Did I choose him ... to be my priest? Did I give unto the house of thy father all the offerings?"

From the outset, there was divine grace and divine choice at work when God called his father's house to the charge of higher things within the nation. 8 Whilst still in Egypt, in the land of sin and darkness, Aaron had been appointed as God's interlocutor, 9 jointly responsible with Moses for observance of the Passover which commemorated their redemption. 10 From the very beginning therefore, Aaron was involved with their national deliverance, and his subsequent appointment to priesthood was connected to that imperative. Priesthood was related to the work of salvation.

After the exodus had brought the children of Israel to Sinai, God chose them to be a "kingdom of priests and an holy nation" unto Himself, and it was then that the family of Aaron within the tribe of Levi was appointed to the High Priesthood by divine decree. 11 His appointment was not because of intrinsic worthiness, for shortly afterwards he behaved unwisely. 12 Any position therefore that Aaron held was because of grace and not of works, lest either he or his family should boast. The decree which granted to his family the priest's office for a perpetual statute, 13 was still conditional upon continued obedience.

Three things marked out the High Priestly role which Aaron held. To be the priest was to ascend God's altar to offer sacrifice for expiation. To be the priest was to burn the daily incense in the spirit of intercession. To be the priest was to wear an ephod as intermediary between God and His people for communication. These were high honours indeed, and not to be taken lightly by those who held the office. They all required the spirit of one whose greater concern was for the spiritual wellbeing of his people, on whose behalf he ministered.

To high responsibility, the law added high privilege. For the office of High Priest was granted special entitlements on the basis that those that wait at the altar are partakers with the altar. Apart from the burnt offering (where the entire animal was consumed upon the altar) all other altar offerings made by fire provided a portion to the High Priest and his family. 14 The finest of both field and flock belonged to Eli and his household, as the law of God furnished the family with a comfortable and generous livelihood from the nation whom they served. 15

But these very portions, and especially of the peace offering, were designed to remind the High Priest and his family that they shared in the blessing of fellowship with both God and His people. The priest's portion was granted to him on the basis that he represented God. When he ate his portion as the offerer ate his, he ate on behalf of God in fellowship with His people. It was a rare moment, this memorial meal, eaten with the Lord, and with all the exalted thoughts that accompanied it. It was this holy meal, and this sacred association that Eli and his sons had so despised.

8 The phrase "the house of thy father (1 Samuel 2:27) relates not to Ithamar, but to Aaron, from whom Eli was descended through Ithamar (1 Chronicles 24:3).

9 Exodus 4:14,27.

10 Exodus 12:1,43.

11 Exodus 28:1-3; Numbers 18:1,7.

12 Exodus 32:21-25,35.

13 Exodus 29:9,

14 Rotherham - "I gave unto the house of thy father all the altar-flames of the sons of Israel" (1 Samuel 2:28), In fact, even in the case of the burnt offering, the skin was still gifted to the officiating priest (Leviticus 7:8),

15 To the High Priest and his family belonged portions of the meal, sin, trespass, and peace offerings, as well as the heave and wave offerings (Numbers 18:8-11), In addition to these, they also received the best of the oil, wine, wheat, and first ripe fruits (Numbers 18:12,13), the devoted things (Numbers 18:14) and the firstborn of household animals (Numbers 18:15-18),

29 Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honourest thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people?

The law of the peace offering

To know the Lord was to seek fellowship with Him, and Hannah desired that more than anything else in her life. She knew that she could never enter His temple, but was ever thankful that she could

"bring an offering and come into his courts".

Her desire to "worship Yahweh in the beauty of holiness" would continue to draw her unto the place which He had chosen to put His name there, where offering and sacrifice should be made. And there was one offering above all others that excited and exalted and enthralled her her with the prospect of the fellowship it promised.

For Hannah, the climax of drawing near to her God lay in the law of the peace offering. 8 She could recall earlier visits to the sanctuary, and held precious memories of a time when the offerings were offered in the manner prescribed by the law. Those visits had been the highlight of her year, and the basis of her attachment to the sanctuary that prompted their yearly pilgrimage.

She remembered what it felt like to arrive before the priest of God with an animal carefully chosen as the best they had. She knew how it felt to place her hand upon the warmth of its head before it was sacrificed, and how, as they slew their offering, the priest stood ready to capture the blood and sprinkle it upon the altar round about.

But he stood ready to do something else. For no sooner was the offering slain than it was cut asunder, to remove the inward fat and the two kidneys. 9 The priest would guide them as to how and where the knife should cut, so that this special part, the portion that the Lord Himself sought might be made ready. 10

Once removed, they had brought it to the altar themselves, and only then did the priest take the fat directly from their hands, 11 to offer it by fire before the Lord upon His table. She could vividly recall those moments at His altar, because it was the nearest she would ever come to the place of His presence. And she remembered the pleasure and approval she felt as she had watched the priest take the fat of their offering and place it upon the daily lamb which was already burning there. 12

Seeing God's portion, 13 offered first unto Him, brought her the greatest satisfaction, for she understood its meaning. The finest was to be God's. Even voluntary offerings of thanksgiving must needs acknowledge the supremacy of God as the first condition of acceptable worship. This fat of the inwards, so esteemed by the Almighty, belonged on His table and nowhere else.

Hannah loved that moment of highest privilege as they approached the altar to offer the "food of the offering", for she treasured its teaching. The Lord desired the richest part of her life as His. Her innermost thoughts and her deepest emotions, the best of her labours and the fulness of her loyalty belonged to Him. She would not have had it otherwise. Even her marriage vow was made stronger by the spirit of her dedication to God, for

"a woman that feareth Yahweh, she shall be praised". 14

After the fat had been offered, those other parts of the sacrifice were separated which would be given to the priests. The first of these was the wave breast, a large and tender piece of meat, which belonged to the priestly family as a whole. 15 Without these, Hannah knew, there could be no approach to God at all.

It mattered not what her desire was to draw near in worship, the presence of the priest who acted on her behalf was the divinely appointed protocol which both permitted approach yet upheld God's holiness. He could only be approached through the mediatorial office of the priest, and she would not forget it. Both priests and Levites themselves had been made a wave offering in their consecration to the Lord for their priestly service. 16 The wave breast, given to the priestly household, reminded Hannah that God, no less than these, sought the full consecration of her own heart before Him.

8 Given that Hannah's story revolved around the peace offering (1 Samuel 1:4-7; 2:13-17), and her desire to replace the priesthood of Hophni and Phinehas because of their corruption of that offering, it would seem reasonable to infer that she had a thorough understanding of its significance, as the following paragraphs suggest.

9 Leviticus 3:3,4,9,10,14,15.

10 The word "fat" (cheleh) means the best, choicest, finest (Numbers 18:12; Psalm


11 This seems to be the inference of the law, which strongly emphasised that it was the offerer himself who offered the fat, bringing it with his own hands, even though the priest then took and burnt it upon the altar on their behalf (Leviticus 3:14-16; 7:29-31).

12 Leviticus 6:12.

13 So insistent was God upon the receiving of this as His chosen portion, He forbad all Israel from ever consuming the fat of the sacrifices (Leviticus 7:23-25). His prohibition was stringent and absolute. No one was ever to take of the fat of the sacrifices for their own use under any circumstances - "all the fat is Yahweh's" (Leviticus 3:16,17).

14 Proverbs 31:28-31.

15 Leviticus 7:30,31,34.

16 Noted of the priests (Leviticus 8:22-28), and the Levites (Numbers 8:10-13).

One more portion was to be given to another before they could enjoy their fellowship meal. For what the priests represented in general was seen in the work of the priest who offered for them on the day they came to the tabernacle door. She knew how the hind leg of the animal was carefully severed from the whole, and given solemnly to the priest who officiated at the sacrifice.

How robust and vigorous was that right leg, how full of power and force it was. Surely all the strength of the animal was here in this portion of meat which the priest would eat as his appointed share. But before he did so, it was offered up as a heave offering to God.

He would eat this portion, but he would do so as God's representative. Hannah remembered watching him, and feeling the wonder of the fact that in eating, he would symbolise that God had indeed accepted their offering. How necessary then, if she was to eat with Him, that all her strength might be devoted unto the Lord with whom she had to do.

With every peace offering, the offerer was more involved than with any other sacrifice, an involvement that lasted from its beginning to its end. Now, in Hannah's eyes, came the most wonderful involvement of all. With all the portions that belonged to others now distributed as the law required, it was time to share this meal with her God.

She always felt the same when this moment came, for she knew an indescribable feeling of wonder and privilege that made this meal like no other. It was more than a meal, for even its eating was an act of worship. There was a portion here "to seven and also to eight", for even after the parts which went to God and His priests, the rest of the animal promised a feast which her entire family would be more than satisfied by.

There was meat for all, and with it a generous basket of unleavened cakes, unleavened wafers, and cakes of fine flour mingled with oil and fried. 17 But, in addition to these, there were freshly baked loaves of leavened bread as well. 18 Hannah remembered how a basket of all these cakes was offered to the priest, 19 so that they might truly share in the sacrificial meal together.

It was strange that these leavened loaves should be permitted, when unleavened bread was the standard of all meal offerings. 20 But Hannah knew why it was that they were offered, accepted their lesson, and bowed before it in reverent humility. They taught her that this meal, shared in fellowship with God, was not to be eaten on the basis of her own righteousness, but on the basis of God's grace.

The unleavened cakes promised her that one day, fellowship with God would be made possible to the full, but only when sin was at last removed. The leavened loaves reminded her that in this mortal age, sin would be ever present in our lives, 21 and that fellowship with God was only permitted through His mercy and subject to His conditions.

In appreciating the lesson of the loaves, Hannah knew that the meal of the peace offering was a privilege so high, that it was an honour to participate. It was not necessary for Hannah to be reminded that only those clean could eat of the peace offering. 22 She would never have permitted herself to eat with her God whilst unclean, but her standard of personal holiness exceeded the ceremonial of the law, and reached to that purity of heart and mind that made true fellowship with the Father possible.

17 Leviticus 7:11,12.

18 Leviticus 7:13.

19 As part of the peace offering, the law stipulated, RSV - "And of such he shall offer one cake from each offering, as an offering to the LORD, it shall belong to the priest" (Leviticus 7:14).

20 The law of the meal offering rigorously excluded the use of leaven (Leviticus 2:11).

The only other occasion where leavened bread was permitted was in the two wave loaves offered at the Feast of Pentecost (Leviticus 23:17). It should be noted that these also were associated with a peace offering (Leviticus 23:19,20).

21 The leavened loaves however, were only forthe consumption of priest and offerer, and could not be placed upon God's table. The normal meal offering which accompanied even the peace offering (and which would be burned upon His altar) had to be of unleavened bread only (Leviticus 2:11).

22 Leviticus 7:20,21.

Of all the peace offerings, the most important was that of thanksgiving, also known as the sacrifice of praise. 23

So holy was this sacrifice, that the fellowship meal which followed had to be eaten on that very day. Hannah had known the joy of that meal, for to her, a life made up of praise in every part, and a spirit of thanksgiving in worship, was the essence of who she was. The joy she felt in bringing praise, and the fellowship she knew in offering it, was the transcendent point of her spiritual life.

But these were all memories of a past and better age when worship at the sanctuary brought such fulfilment and peace. For a long time now however, the wickedness of the sons of Eli had not just brought the sanctuary into disrepute, but had filled the hearts of the faithful with distress and indignation. The meal of the peace offering, which should have been eaten with rejoicing, 24 instead brought only sorrow.

In fact, it was only the strength of their conviction concerning the Lord's command to appear before Him, that kept Elkanah and Hannah in attendance. 25 Her fears that the worship of Israel might be corrupted beyond recovery, were entirely justified. But the arrival of Samuel in that place marked the beginning of a challenge to their order. It was time the issue was joined, and already Hannah was deeply involved in advancing that cause. It was none too soon, for the iniquity of the priests had come to the full.

23 Unlike the vow and voluntary peace offerings, the "thanksgiving" (towdah) offering had to be eaten the same day, indicating its higher importance (Leviticus 7:15;

24 Deuteronomy 12:6,7,12; 27:7.

25 The general wickedness that prevailed at the sanctuary must have discouraged many a faithful Israelite from coming to Shiloh at all. The persistence of Elkanah and Hannah in adhering to the requirements of the law (Deuteronomy 16:16,17) was a remarkable example.

Bro Roger Lewis - Handmaid of the Highest - Ch 5

Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice

In the word of judgment from the man of God, the Spirit gave echo to the stern warning of the lawgiver. Moses had spoken of Israel's disobedience, but who could doubt that in Eli was seen an exhibition of the very words which Moses had uttered? 16 How dreadful that the High Priest of Israel had become the very figure of the worst spirit of rebellion against God.

Of course, it was his sons who committed the crime of robbery, and who kicked at the sacrifices commanded in God's habitation. But it was not just Hophni and Phinehas who were made fat by their appropriation of the offerings. Eli was unwilling to censure his sons in a matter where he himself stood to gain, and in permitting their excess for his own benefit, he honoured his sons above God.

The office of the priesthood brought with it a lucrative opportunity to add to their wealth beyond the perquisites already theirs by divine provision. That wealth enriched them to the point of fatness, a condition which Eli shared, complicit in his acquiescence. 17

Eli's weakness lay in his love for the best things in life, and the opportunity to enjoy them came through enabling the greed of his sons without rebuke. Sin comes when weakness meets opportunity.

Hannah's prayer had told of those who were full in the abundance of their wealth, and she had spoken in truth of Ell and his family. 18 The evil eye that hasted to be rich, was also the eye that would never be satisfied. Not content with the provision of God, these sons seized the best of the offerings that belonged to the people, 19 and in so doing betrayed the spirit of their office.

The basis of Eli's judgment then was that knowledge brought responsibility. He knew of the role of the priesthood, but failed to uphold it, and permitted his sons to disgrace it. Such a spirit would inevitably incur divine judgment, and the principle has ever been the same with every generation of God's people. He has graciously revealed His mind and His purpose, but He will hold us accountable for that knowledge which we bear.

The law prescribed that every feast of the Lord must include both sacrifice and offering, 20 and Hannah's life had centred on these holy convocations at the sanctuary. Attendance at such a feast was a spiritual highlight for those assembled at the only place where the LORD would permit such offerings to be put upon His altar.

Leading them in the climax of that worship were the priests who were charged with the sacred task of preparing the offerings, and distributing the portions as the law required. Yet it was here, at this sacred place and in this sacred moment, that both God's sacrifice, 21 and God's offering, 22 were so wilfully violated.

To kick against God's sacrifice and offering was to repudiate the laws which governed their apportionment. 23 In the process, Hophni and Phinehas profaned their office, and all for nothing more than carnal greed.

If their sin was to scorn the Lord's altar, then in the absolute justice of God the penalty would fit the crime, and the punishment would follow the perversion. For when God's judgments came by the mouth of the man of God, these vile men might finally have wished to offer for their own atonement. Alas, it was not to be.

Their end, as revealed to Samuel, would make that impossible. At the last, when their own need for sacrifice and offering was desperate, God would not accept it at their hands. 24 These priests who had refused to seek reconciliation for others, would find heaven closed to their own entreaties, and shut to their own altar petitions. The priesthood would be made void, rendered invalid by their own corruption of it.

16 The words of Moses were "But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation" (Deuteronomy 32:15). The word 'kicked' (ba'at) is only used here and in the words of the man of God (1 Samuel 2:29).

17 The final comment on Eli being witness - "he fell from off the seat backward, by the side of the gate, and his neck break, and he died: for he was an old man and heavy" (1 Samuel 4:18).

18 Her prayer mentioned "they that were full have hired themselves out for bread" (1 Samuel 2:5).

19 The word "chiefest" (re'shiyth) is the same as the "firstfruits" that were already theirs by divine appointment (Numbers 18:12). But the reference here is to the best of the offerer's own portion which they stole.

20 "These are the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD, a burnt offering, a meat offering [minchah], a sacrifice [zebach], and drink offerings, every thing upon his day" (Leviticus 23:37).

21 "When any man offered sacrifice [zebach], the priest's servant came- ... all that the fleshhook brought up the priest took for himself" (1 Samuel 2:13,14).

22 "Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD: for men abhorred the offering [minchah] of the LORD" (1 Samuel 2:17).

23 The words of indictment centred on their disregard for that which God Himself had ordered in His house - "Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice [zebachl and at mine offering [minchahl which I have commanded in my habitation" (1 Samuel 2:29).

24 "I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be purged with sacrifice [zebachl nor offering [minchahl for ever" (1 Samuel 3:14).

30 Therefore Yahweh Elohim of Yisroel saith, I said indeed that thy Bais [House], and the Bais Avicha [Father's house], should walk before Me ad olam; but now Yahweh saith, Be it far from Me; for them that honour Me I will honour, and they that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.

For them that honour me I will honour

The priesthood which they rested upon had never been theirs by absolute right. Its continuance depended on obedience, and their disobedience would terminate their office.

...Here was a divine principle. Our destiny is linked to our attitude to God. And in this simple choice of whether: honour or to despise Him, the proverb declared that He would respond to us in a spirit consistent with our Own.

When the man of God spoke his words, there was an immediate and evident application to Hophni and Phinehas who, having despised God in their actions, would in turn be lightly esteemed by Him. But the obvious truth of that fulfilment argued for just as immediate an outworking with Hannah, who in contrast would be honoured by God as she had honoured Him and she the first example of that truth, once pronounced.

Who should have received more honour than her, in the outworking of this story, even though she sought no honour for herself, but for her Lord? She was honoured when God enabled her to bear Samuel in response to her prayer. She was honoured when God exalted her son, by raising him to the leadership of the nation. 27 She was honoured when God chose her as His instrument to begin the next great stage of His purpose with His people. But this only occurred becauss she first honoured God, by placing Him first in her life, before her child.

Eli had honoured his sons above God, but Hannah had honoured God above her son. She was the living demonstration of the proverb, both in her spirit and in God's response. But she was also the antithesis of the High Priest, more spiritual than he in her commitment, more faithful than he in her dedication.

And, given her remarkable faith, why might she not also be honoured in some special capacity in the kingdom? "Them that honour me I will honour" was not necessarily a promise limited to this present mortal life, for God's honouring of his servants reaches into their future status with Him.

He might honour them by present blessing, by involvement in His purpose, or by commission in His service. But He might extend that honour by future redemption, by an adoption into His family, and by participation in His glory.

If to be lightly esteemed for Hophni and Phinehas related to their premature death, what might it be for Hannah to be honoured? If for Eli's sons there impended a death with no future, then surely for Samuel's mother there awaited a future without death. .

All those who hold office in the household of faith must ponder the path of true service, to know whether they honour God or serve themselves. It matters not whether the task is large or small, spiritual or mundane. In every work, we likewise must learn that the privilege of service brings with it a duty to seek God's honour as paramount in that labour.

The proverb of the man of God will hold true for all, that there will be a strict correspondence between character and consequence. God will best be honoured, when in whatever office we hold, we work to discharge its responsibilities faithfully, we strive to reach its highest ideal, and we seek to hold ourselves accountable to its best and noblest spirit.

To honour God is to work for the triumph of His principles and not our own. When we do, we will know somewhat of the spirit of Hannah, who lived her life at the centre of the truth, and found no fellowship with those who lived at its circumference. Hers was a life that God would honour indeed.

27 Even the impending role of Samuel was an elevation of his mother (Proverbs 23:24,25).

31 Behold, the days come [yamim are coming], that I will cut off thine arm [zero'a], and the arm of thy father's house [Bais Avicha], that there shall not be an old man [zaken] in thine house [Bais].

The fact that the Lord had seen fit to communicate directly with the child concerning the overthrow of his household 5 was reason enough for Eli to share his own visitation from the man of God. Although the man had spoken with Eli alone, he chose now to reveal the details to young Samuel, after the child had received his own angelic message. 6

Despite the terrible finality of the judgment, Eli accepted the words of the man as being indeed from the Lord, and had bowed before it. And if Samuel already knew of this judgment, then there was no point in hiding from him the words which the man of God had spoken. This was the right occasion for Eli to charge Samuel with the guardianship of all that he himself had failed to safeguard in his own sons.

Despite his evident weakness, there was still a love of the Truth in Eli, and the pure and holy spirit of the child who ministered before him, touched him with sadness for the past and hope for the future.

Samuel in turn, and no doubt at the first opportunity, spoke of these matters with his mother. All his life, she had guided him towards his priestly role, and these messages, he knew, would be of compelling interest to his mother. At the time of her next yearly visit to the sanctuary, he was anxious to share them with her.

When Hannah heard the startling news, she, like her son, was astonished and amazed at these words from God. It was fitting that Hannah be informed by the Lord concerning the next part of His plan. It was He who had answered her first heartfelt plea by granting her a son, and it was He who had accepted the charge of caring for the child when she brought

him in faith to the sanctuary. But now, she learned, through the unequivocal words of the man of God, that He intended to raise up for Himself a faithful priest.

Even more striking was the message of the angel. Since until that moment, Eli, as High Priest wearing the ephod had been the medium of divine communication in Israel, what could be made of the news that the Lord had called the child, but to recognise that here was an intimation that the faithful priest God had in mind was Samuel himself.

Hannah learned thereby of the purpose of the Lord to work through her son. Only later would all Israel know that Samuel was established to be the spokesman of God, but his mother would be made privy to his work and destiny much earlier. It was a just reward for the sacrifice she had made, and a privilege she was thankful to know.

And, far from being dissatisfied that God had not spoken with her directly, her heart rejoiced to hear the matter from Samuel himself. He was still too young perhaps to understand the dreadful fulness of these messages, but Hannah swiftly understood how absolute the judgments were. And to receive them from the mouth of Samuel, confirmed for her that God had already begun to use him as His channel of communication.

When she heard these words of the man of God, and still further those of the angel of the Lord, she felt again that surge of fierce joy in her heart. Her son's priestly work was already in motion. God had answered her, and even now was preparing that succession of events that would sweep away the household of Eli from the priesthood.

5 1 Samuel 3:11-14.

6 It is unlikely that Eli would have shared the message of the man of God with his two sons, for they had proved themselves to be beyond correction. But there was every reason for him to share it with Samuel (whom he loved), at some point before his death. Although the Spirit could have revealed the conversation directly to the author of 1 Samuel, it could just as easily have been received from Samuel himself, who had become privy to the details from Eli.

Perhaps Eli did this after the angel's message to Samuel, which the little boy had shared with the old priest, upon his solemn adjuration to tell him all. At that moment, Eli was certain that the work of God would be continued through Samuel. Here was the time to tell him of the words of the man of God, and to urge him to uphold the Truth, which Eli's own sons had so terribly disgraced.

Bro Roger Lewis - Handmaid of the Highest Ch 7

32 And thou shalt see an enemy in my habitation [the tabernacle], in all the wealth which Elohim shall give Israel: and there shall not be an old man in thine house for ever.

There shall not be an old man in thine house

Eli and his sons had not honoured the Lord, but despised Him, and the sentence now pronounced was the consequence of their spirit and behaviour. The strength of Eli's house was to be cut off, beginning with the dramatic death of his two sons. 28 Their death, occurring as it did in Eli's lifetime, 29 became the sign which confirmed that all the words of the judgment would come to pass.

In one blow the immediate offspring of Eli were to be removed as offending limbs, their death as sudden and as brutal as the severing of an arm. Disastrous as this was to the house of Eli, the indictment also brought disgrace upon the house of Aaron, its strength and reputation diminished by such summary judgment upon one of the family branches. As the prophecy was outworked, the influence and authority of the house of Eli was progressively removed, and once God's judgments began, they would not end until every word had been fulfilled.

The divine retribution was to be dreadful: successive calamities that would strike down Eli's offspring in the vigour of their manhood, so that none would reach the dignity of becoming old and full of days. 30 More than once, those of his house were to experience tragedy which took them away in the flower of their age, as strong men were removed in the prime of life. Potential elders were denied the role that time might have brought, and those that could have risen to prominence were prevented by death from doing so.

The family would experience both distress and decline, linked to the gradual diminishing of the prestige of the tabernacle system to which Eli's house had stood so closely related.

"Thou shalt see the affliction of the tabernacle"

came the words, and with them the promise that Eli would witness the beginning of those calamities which would decrease the tabernacle's role in the nation, until it was set aside. 31 The distress of the tabernacle began with the capture of the ark, and its removal from the sanctuary. The ark as the focal point of the tabernacle system was the place of the Lord's presence among His people, and its loss represented the greatest blow to the tabernacle ritual which ever occurred. 32

Despite that loss, the rest of the tabernacle was safely removed from Shiloh, before that place was destroyed by the Philistines. Whether the transfer occurred under the supervision of Samuel or not, the tabernacle was set up again at Nob, and with it the routine of tabernacle worship was resumed. 33 Here again the family of the priests were to be found, 34 but significantly, the priesthood remained as yet with a descendant of Ithamar through the family of Eli, in the person of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub.

During Samuel's tenure as leader, there was no mention of the tabernacle system, or of the priestly family. What few indications there were of priestly sacrifice and intercession, came from the hands of Samuel himself. The sudden reappearance of the house of Eli at the place of the tabernacle was therefore unusual, and there was every reason to suppose that this appointment was not of Samuel's making.

Given that the prophecy of the man of God tasked him with the preserving of the house of Ithamar but in a subordinate capacity, 35 why would Samuel have reinstated them to the High Priestly role? The very strictures enjoined upon Eli's house in the angelic revelation to Samuel, must have forever forbidden him from promoting their advancement. 36

The reappointment of the line of Ithamar came about, more probably, at Saul's instigation. His attitude to the role of priests was at best casual, 37 but Samuel's reproof may have been the cause of his decision to retain his own priestly adviser. 38

Had he consulted with Samuel, he would have been advised that the house of Ithamar lay under the severest of divine curses, and that no priest of Eli's house should be appointed. But, as was his wont, Saul, who was not among the prophets, made his own decision without proper thought, and whether by artifice or coincidence, a priest of Ithamar stood ready to join him and to take up priestly honours.

How remarkably then, was the judgment of God outworked against Eli's house. The very act that appeared to hold the key to their family's revival became the basis for their demise. Saul, capricious and fickle, 39 unwisely promoted them to officiate again at the tabernacle, and then, in like manner, turned and ordered their subsequent execution. The terrible act of vengeance wrought pon the priests at Nob in the days of Saul, was thereby perpetrated against the line of Ithamar. 40 In the providence of God, the words of the prophecy came to pass with astonishing accuracy. 41

28 The arm was the symbol of a man's strength, the outstretching of it signifying the reach of his power. Its cutting off here symbolised the dramatic loss of authority and influence that would befall Eli's house (EzekieI30:21,22; Zechariah 11:17).

29 The death of Hophni and Phinehas fulfilled the words of 1 Samuel 2:34.

30 The history of the family would be marked by such premature ends "there shall not be an old man in thine house", "there shall not be an old man in thine house for ever", all the increase of thine house shall die in the flower of their age" (1 Samuel 2:31-33).

31 Note KJV margin. Cp. ASV - "thou shalt behold the affliction of my habitation"; Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges - "thou shalt behold the distress of my habitation" (1 Samuel 2:32). The term "my habitation" should be understood here as relating to the tabernacle, consistent with its earlier use (1 Samuel 2:29).

32 The loss of the ark was deemed a worse catastrophe than the death of Hophni and Phinehas, or of Eli himself (1 SamueI4:19-22). It marked the beginning of the decline of the tabernacle service, since the ark was never returned there, and the power of the tabernacle system was irrevocably diminished. This was the "distress of God's habitation" indeed.

33 The mention of the shewbread (1 Samuel 21:6) which was placed on the table of shewbread in the holy place (Leviticus 24:5-9), is evidence that the tabernacle was

standing and in operation in Nob at that time.

34 Note the phrase, "Nob, the city of the priests" (1 Samuel 22:19).

35 1 Samuel 2:36.

36 The words, "I will judge his house for ever", and "Eli's house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever" (1 Samuel 3:13,14) would seem to deny them a further High Priestly role.

37 His assumption of the role himself without qualm (1 Samuel 13:9-12) being evidence.

38 The notice, shortly after, of Ahiah being in his entourage suggests that he wanted a priest on hand, with whom he could consult (1 Samuel 14:3). But, in common with other actions of Saul, this appointment was not driven by deep scriptural principles, but for the sake of appearance.

39 He was prepared to appoint a priest, bearing an ephod to accompany him, but equally prepared to interrupt that priest's enquiring of the LORD, when it suited him (1 Samuel 14:18,19, LXX).

40 The record is explicit that the catastrophe fell upon Ahimelech's family even "all thy father's house" (1 Samuel 22:11,16,22). The term "father's house" relates to the line of Ithamar which Ahimelech stood related to.

Bro Roger Lewis - Hannah Handmaid of the Highest Ch 7

33 And the man of thine, whom I shall not cut off from mine altar, shall be to consume thine eyes, and to grieve thine heart: and all the increase of thine house shall die in the flower of their age.

33 And the ish of thine, whom I shall not cut off from Mine Mizbe'ach, shall be to consume thine eyes, and to grieve thine nefesh; and all the increase of thine Bais shall die anashim [i.e., not zekenim].

One man of the line of lthamar escaped, as young Abiathar, the son of Ahimelech joined David's band, bringing with him the High Priest's ephod. 42 Yet this survivor was also caught within the measure of the curse, and his end would not escape the reach of the divine judgment. Although he laboured with David, circumstances brought about a disengagement between the two men, which in the course of time led to a rupture of trust, and a revealing of the spirit of treachery in Abiathar.

The final degradation of Eli's house was made complete in the decision of Solomon to thrust out Abiathar from being priest before the Lord. Solomon's action, in response to Abiathar's betrayal of David in supporting the rebellion of Adonijah, led to his exile in disgrace to Anathoth. 43

With this final banishment, the judgment against the house of Eli was made complete, in a man who although not initially cut off from the altar, would only serve to cause grief to Eli (had he been alive to see it), and shame to Abiathar who was alive to know it. 44

And, lest Eli thought that the force of these judgments lay far off into the future, he was told by what means he would recognise their harsh reality, and brutal certainty. It was a terrible sign for a father to receive.

The sudden and violent death of Hophni and Phinehas, struck down together on the same day, would be a calamity which he would witness in his own lifetime. And despite his age, this immediate outworking was to be the pledge of the future fulfilment of all that was prophesied against his house. Nothing would be left undone of all that the man of God had spoken.

The severity of the judgment could only be explained by the grievousness of the sin. The judgment was so terrible, and the terms so final, that the sins of Eli and his sons must have been heinous indeed. They were. His sons were vile beyond compare, and God would not permit this outrage upon His sanctuary and His holiness to pass unchallenged.

He who is merciful and gracious, is also a jealous God and a consuming fire. There has always been a flaw in human nature which is deluded by the notion that evil, if not at the first requited, will never be so. 45 But God is not mocked. He will bring every work into judgment, whether it be good or whether it be evil. That day of accountability had fallen upon the house of Eli now.

Even in this pronouncement of doom, there was a merciful omission. For what the man of God did not divulge, was that the day in which Eli's sons would die, would also be the day when the ark of God was captured by the Philistines. Their sudden death would be as nothing compared to the catastrophe of the day of Ichabod, and it was the shock of this news which finally killed Eli .

As well then that he did not know this final part of the story. When it came, it would be the death of him.

42 David being much more inclined to enquire of God than his predecessor (1 Samuel

23:6,9-11; 30:7,8).

43 The divine comment expressly linked Solomon's action to the words of the man of God, thus -

"So Solomon thrust out Abiathar from being priest unto the LORD; that he might fulfil the word of the LORD, which he spake concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh" (1 Kings 2:26,27).

44 The demise of Abiathar fulfilled the words of 1 Samuel 2:33.

45 Ecclesiastes 8: 11

Bro Roger Lewis - Hannah Handmaid of the Highest Ch 7

34 And this shall be a sign unto thee, that shall come upon thy two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas; in one day they shall die both of them.

Yahweh's judgement on the house of Eli

God's judgment on the house of Eli-one of the most terrible denunciations in Scripture. Eli himself was not wicked, and he raised his voice against the wickedness, but his sin before God was that he did not go beyond just denouncing it. He did not take the proper action to keep the priesthood sound and the worship unadulterated. He vainly hoped that just talking against it would be acceptable to God. How terribly mistaken he was! There is a great lesson here. Many today will denounce error, but they see no need of separating themselvs from it and taking the proper action to keep the body sound.

Eli was of the line of Ithamar-the youngest of Aaron's two surviving sons. We remember two died, because they offered strange fire. The high priesthood had started out in the line of Eleazer, the older son, but somehow, not recorded, during the period of the judges it had been transferred to the house of Ithamar. Now, it was to go back, and the line of Ithamar was to be cursed for ever, because of Eli's sons' wickedness.

Saul also annihilated the line, killing 85 priests in cold blood. Only Abiathar escaped. He served during David's reign, but at its end, he joined the Adonijah conspiracy against Solomon, whom God had chosen to follow David. Solomon banished him, and the priesthood returned to the line of Eleazer in Zadok, completing the curse on Eli's house.

There is much of deep prophetic significance in the closing words of this curse on Eli in verse 35 of chapter 2,

"And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed (My Messiah) for ever."

It is our desire and hope and lifelong effort to be a part of that faithful, eternal, Zadok priesthood to serve before Christ for ever.*

35 And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever.

God's character has always been that perfect balance of goodness and severity, mercy and truth. But God's mercy would not be seen in granting reprieve to those whose spirit remained unrepentant to the end. For them there would be nothing but removal. His mercy would instead be shown in raising up a faithful priest through whom His work with Israel as an holy priesthood might be resumed. The principle of accountability would not be set aside for Eli's sons, and even now it was God's avowed intention to replace them.

With the death of Hophni and Phinehas, God set in motion the cascade of events that would remove the house of Ithamar and restore the house of Eleazar. But during this priestly interregnum, He provided His people with a faithful priest who would restore their confidence in the office, and lead them back to the true worship of their God. Samuel, marked out from birth, and already resident at the sanctuary was God's choice. But Samuel deserved his appointment, since he had shown himself to be worthy of the role from an extremely young age. 46

His mother had always believed in his destiny, but the words of the man of God had confirmed it. "I will raise me up a faithful priest" was the promise that God would intervene, but the seeds of that promise had already been sown in the birth of Samuel, and in Hannah's giving him to God. It was her spirit which had made all this possible, the spirit of personal sacrifice, offered at enormous cost, but in absolute confidence that God could work a work though her child.

Whatever further aspects of the promise there might have been, the faithful priest who first appeared in answer to the word, was Samuel himself. And as one specially raised in the providence of God, Samuel fulfilled the priestly role in the very details noted.

He would do all that Hophni and Phinehas did not. He was faithful to offer sacrifice. 47 He was faithful to burn incense. 48 He was faithful to wear an ephod. 49 Samuel was a priest all his life, the spiritual guide and mentor of the nation. Indeed, in all of Israel's subsequent history, Hannah's son was the one person who approached the high rank of Moses.

Like Moses he was at once the civil leader, and their priestly intercessor, the like of which would never be seen again. 50 In him the kingly and priestly roles would be combined, in a foreshadowing of future things yet to be revealed in Messiah, 51 but which Hannah had already seen.

And whence this faithful spirit? Why from his mother Hannah! In Samuel would be found an example of faithfulness, so marked, that God could say of him that he would do according to all that was in His heart and mind. At last, there would be found in Israel a faithful priest whose sole interest and highest cause was to set forth the counsel and mind of God before the nation. This was the priest Hannah had sought for, and now recognised in her own son.

46 Remarkably, the very term used to describe God's faithful priest whom He would raise (aman), was attested of Samuel shortly afterwards - "and all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was faithful "aman" (1 Samuel 3:20).

47 The priestly work of expiation (1 Samuel 7:9,10; 10:8). Note that on these occasions, Samuel did not seek a priest to offer on his behalf but assumed the role instead.

48 The priestly work of intercession, the burning of incense being but the outward symbol of priestly prayer (1 Samuel 7:9; 12:18; 15:11).

49 The priestly work of communication, in being the channel of divine counsel from God. From a child, Samuel had worn an ephod (1 Samuel 2:18), but in leading the nation, he became the appointed intermediary of heaven (1 Samuel 3:21). He rehearsed the words of the people in the ear of the Lord (1 Samuel 8:21), who in turn revealed His will in the ear of Samuel (1 Samuel 19:15). Here was divine communication at the highest level!

50 Hence the outstanding testimony of scripture concerning him (Psalm 99:6; Jeremiah 15:1).

51 See Appendix 7 - "What was the story of Hannah's faithful priest?" 

I will build him a sure house

Such was the esteem in which Samuel would be held, that God promised to build him a sure house. 52 The promise did not concern his flesh and blood descendants, for his own sons

disgraced their office, 53 and were removed by Samuel himself. 54 The sure house referred to was a spiritual household that would be associated with him in the kingdom. 55 And their relationship with Samuel would be of a priestly character.

It was to Samuel as a faithful priest that a sure house would be built, not to Samuel as a judge or a prophet, although he would be both of these. What ,was to be perpetuated was the spirit of his faithful priesthood, in a company of priests who would take their example from him, their right to service found not in Aaronic authority, but through some higher priestly line.

That line, related to the order of Melchizedek, was revealed in Samuel, whose own priesthood stood more related to his Nazarite vow than his Levitical descent. How could his sure house be anything other than a future family, when Samuel was promised that he would execute the priestly office in the presence of the anointed of the Lord for ever. 56

To act as priest before the Lord's anointed was one thing. To do so for ever, moved the promise into the realm of the kingdom, and the prospect of future exaltation, And the anointed one before whom he would serve, was the same anointed man with kingly and priestly rights Hannah had seen in her song. 57 The words of the man of God again confirmed Hannah's prophetic expectation of this one who should come, but now added the promise that her own son would be associated with he whose right it was.

How astonished must Hannah have been to know this prophecy. How must her mother's love have overflowed at such gracious words. To know that her son, the son that she had borne, would be granted the special honour of fulfilling his priestly duties before Christ in the kingdom! It was enough to fill her heart with joy. How marvellous was the thought that he should be so exalted to this degree of privilege.

And yet, it was no more than she had intended in her giving. Her offering had always been with the spirit of the kingdom in mind, and the Lord had accepted her gift, that the child might abide before Him for ever. 58 That promise reaching forward into Messiah's day,' was surely the ultimate accolade of heaven bestowed upon His Handmaid, in recognition of one whose mind was always focused on higher things.

52 The word "sure"'(aman) is the same word as "faithful". Samuel's faithful spirit would elicit a faithful response from God, who is the embodiment of faithfulness (Deuteronomy 7:9). The root idea of the word relates to certainty.

53 1 Samuel 8:1-3.

54 1 Samuel 12:2.

55 Note the similarity of language with the promise to David (2 Samuel 7:11; 1 Kings 11:38).

56 RSV - "and he shall go in and out before mine anointed". The phrase is an echo of the teaching of the law concerning the work of the priest - "And it shall be upon Aaron to minister, and his sound shall be heard when he goeth in unto the holy place before the Lord, and when he cometh out" (Exodus 28:35). The term "walk" in this context therefore, relates to the fulfilment of Samuel's priestly labours.

57 Her song had concluded with this very thought - "and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn-of his anointed" (1 Samuel 2:10).

58 Notice the permanent spirit of Samuel's priestly role. Hannah's desire _ "that he may appear before the LORD for ever" (1 Samuel 1:22), was now matched by God's assurance - "and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever" (1 Samuel 2:35). It stands in studied contrast to the permanent overthrow of Eli's house _

"there shall not be an old man in thine house forever" (1 Samuel 2:32), "I will judge his house for ever", "Eli's house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever" (1 Samuel 3:13,14).

Bro Roger Lewis - Hannah Handmaid of the Highest Ch 7