1 Samuel 1:9-18

After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord, and wept bitterly. She made this vow: “O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head.”

As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk. So Eli said to her, “How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.”

But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.”

Then Eli answered, “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.” And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your sight.” Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer. 1 Samuel 1:9-18

The Rev. Jacques Hamel was 86 years old. He was accompanied by three nuns and two church members, saying Mass, when their worship was interrupted. Two heartless, murderous young men forced Father Hamel to his knees in front of the altar, profaning both the altar and their own faith with memorized Arabic phrases, then ended his life, spilling his blood in that space built to remember the spilled blood of another godly and innocent man.

As story after story appears of the wicked cowardice of deranged killers spreading death in the name of a perverted interpretation of their Islamic faith, we wonder how can this happen. The next story comes out and the next and again and again we find ourselves shocked, repulsed, horrified, and enraged.

Abducting hundreds of girls from a school. Driving a truck through a crowded festival. Another exploding car or exploding vest. Knives and bombs and guns and throwing people from buildings. At some point this will either be stopped or it will become a new medieval normal. Which will it be?

The Bible records many periods when God was all but forgotten and people handed themselves over to evil thoughts and actions. It also records times when the people of Israel, the people of God, did horrible things in God’s name. We have learned to listen closely to such texts, to temper their harshness, to consider the self-serving ways that survivors write history. Angry and reactive though we might feel, Christians will not resort to reading stories of the full-scale slaughter of villages as if that is the godly path to restoring peace and order. And if any do, or feel so inclined, voices of reason and compassion who have heard the words of Jesus will rebuke such ideas.

I hope, I pray, and I trust, that there are Moslem imams the world over exhorting their people to see the difference between the violent tribalism recorded in the Koran and its timeless calls to honoring God, self-restraint, peace, hospitality, brotherhood, and compassion.

The story of Hannah and her experience before another aged priest, Eli, is also written out of a time of despair. Not only Hannah’s personal despair but a time when people were turning their back on God. But God was still at work. The child promised to Hannah would be a blessing and a turning point in the story. The star of the story isn’t Elkanah, Hannah’s husband, or Eli, the aged priest. The star of the story is a woman who prayed to be a mother with the guts to say to that priest, “No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.”

Maybe the message we need to hear today is that we have had enough of men with narrow views of faith, enough of husbands and sons killing others for their short-sighted cause of the day. Maybe it is time to see and to listen to the voices of mothers, strong and loving women, who seek not to end lives but to bear them into the world and nurture them in love. Mothers like this, and this, and this. If not now, when?

Let us pray: Dear Lord, we thank you for the long, fruitful, and faithful ministry of Father Jacques Hamel. We pray for those who grieve his death, for his sisters who stood by his side to the end, and for all of us who see in his death our own vulnerability and need. Thank you for the persistent faith of Hannah and we pray that her courage might be made incarnate in the mothers of the world who seek to save their sons from themselves and their own twisted ideas. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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2 Responses to “1 Samuel 1:9-18”

  1. Dave Aemstrong Says:

    Thank you for encouraging words of hope!!!!

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Amen. Come Lord Jesus!

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