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1 Samuel Session 1

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God answers prayer, True Stewardship

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Answered

God answers the prayers of those who humbly seek Him.
“I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”
-Martin Luther

About 1 Samuel

AUTHOR
The human writer of 1 Samuel isn’t mentioned in Scripture, though it bears the name of the prophet who was the bridge between the time of the judges and the beginning of the monarchy in Israel. Although Jewish tradition attributes the book to Samuel himself, this is unlikely because the events described extended past the life of the prophet. First Chronicles 29:29-30, however, mentions a historical collection that appears to have been written by Samuel, so it’s safe to assume that the writer of 1 Samuel used this resource and possibly the writings of the prophets Nathan and Gad.
DATE
Two questions emerge in any discussion about the chronology of 1 Samuel. First, at what time did the events in the book occur? It’s fairly certain that they took place from 1105 to 1010 B.C.
Second, when were the events of 1 Samuel actually written in the historical narrative we know today? Most conservative scholars believe the book was written sometime either during King Solomon’s reign (around 950 B.C.) or perhaps after the kingdom divided in 931 B.C. The reference to the kings of Judah in 1 Samuel 27:6 could possibly indicate the latter date.
PURPOSE
First and Second Samuel were originally one document in the Hebrew Bible. This fact no doubt informs any attempt to understand the writer’s purpose. Both books provide accounts of the emergence of kingship and the history of the kingdom of God in Israel. The narrative is built around three major characters: Samuel, Saul, and David.
A study of 1 Samuel will reveal the primacy of God’s glory. While the lives of some characters (Samuel and David) reflected His greatness and goodness, others (Eli, his sons, and Saul) made a mockery of God and defamed Him by their actions. These lessons will lead us to confront the call to exalt God alone.

1 Samuel 1:10-18, 26-28

10 Deeply hurt, Hannah prayed to the Lord and wept with many tears. 11 Making a vow, she pleaded, “Lord of Hosts, if You will take notice of Your servant’s affliction, remember and not forget me, and give Your servant a son, I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and his hair will never be cut.” 12 While she continued praying in the Lord’s presence, Eli watched her lips. 13 Hannah was praying silently, and though her lips were moving, her voice could not be heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and scolded her, “How long are you going to be drunk? Get rid of your wine!” 15 “No, my lord,” Hannah replied. “I am a woman with a broken heart. I haven’t had any wine or beer; I’ve been pouring out my heart before the Lord. 16 Don’t think of me as a wicked woman; I’ve been praying from the depth of my anguish and resentment.” 17 Eli responded, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant the petition you’ve requested from Him.” 18 “May your servant find favor with you,” she replied. Then Hannah went on her way; she ate and no longer looked despondent.
26 “Please, my lord,” she said, “as sure as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. 27 I prayed for this boy, and since the Lord gave me what I asked Him for, 28 I now give the boy to the Lord. For as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.” Then he bowed in worship to the Lord there.

Think About It

Note all of Hannah’s self-descriptors in this Bible passage.
Q. How did she define herself in relation to Eli the priest?
Q. In verses 10-16 identify the emotions Hannah experienced.

Understanding the Context

Change was in the air during the time of the events recorded in 1 Samuel. The priesthood had grown corrupt. Neither Eli nor his sons, Hophni and Phinehas, served the Lord in a way that honored Him. God, therefore, would bring an end to Eli’s priestly dynasty (see 1 Sam. 2:12-36). It also was a time of transition in government from a theocracy (the rule of God) to a monarchy (the rule of a king). Samuel, the child born through God’s intervention, would be a stabilizing force during these days of upheaval and transition. Samuel would anoint the first two kings of Israel but to different outcomes. The first king, Saul, proved unfit for the office. Therefore, God would call out the young shepherd David to lead His people.
It would be a mistake to assume that everything in Israel rose and fell because of the people in positions of power. In the opening chapter of the book, we meet an ordinary woman in great distress who prayed to God. Hannah played a key role in the unfolding of God’s plan and purpose for Israel. She was one of two wives of Elkanah, a man of the tribe of Ephraim, and she was unable to have a child. This is a traumatic situation in any era or culture but especially so in ancient Israel, where children were viewed as evidence of God’s blessing and favor. Hannah prayed for a child, and God heard and answered her. The child born to Hannah was Samuel. In gratitude Hannah gave the child back to the Lord because she loved the Giver more than the gift. Her prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1-10 is a triumphant celebration of the power of God to overturn human designs and anticipates the emergence of kings in Israel (see v. 10).

KEY DOCTRINE

Stewardship
Christians should recognize their time, talents, and material possessions as entrusted to them to use for the glory of God and for helping others.

Explore the Text

HANNAH’S PRAYER (1 Samuel 1:10-11)
10 Deeply hurt, Hannah prayed to the LORD and wept with many tears. 11 Making a vow, she pleaded, “LORD of Hosts, if You will take notice of Your servant’s affliction, remember and not forget me, and give Your servant a son, I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and his hair will never be cut.”
As a part of their normal practice, Hannah and her husband, Elkanah, went to Shiloh, the place of worship in Israel, to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. With the taunts of her rival, Peninnah (Elkanah’s other wife), about her barrenness ringing in her ears (see vv. 6-7), Hannah went to the Lord’s tabernacle, where Eli the priest was serving. A literal description of the state of Hannah’s heart in verse 10 is “bitter of soul.” The phrase is repeated in 22:2 to describe those who, because of desperation in their lives, rallied around David as king. The purest prayer comes from desperate devotion and a believing heart that can find relief and help only from God. In His compassion the Father takes notice of all our grief and sorrow.
Why is it important to be honest with God about our pains and frustrations?
As Hannah prayed, she made a vow to the Lord. This raises the question of whether it’s advisable to promise God to do a certain thing in response to His answering a prayer. Our relationship with God is based on grace. We can’t earn His favor or benefits. In Hannah we see the heart attitude to which God favorably responds. In the original language she called herself a servant or slave to the Lord. A deep understanding of the Lord’s greatness and of our position in relation to Him drives and motivates prayer. Thus, prayer isn’t a means to secure what we want for ourselves but rather a submission of everything in our lives to His control.
In asking the Lord to remember her, Hannah wasn’t seeking to jog the memory of God. Rather, she was asking Him to act in her behalf. In return, Hannah’s promise to God was that her son would be a lifelong Nazirite (see Num. 6:1-7). Unlike the Levitical priests, who served from age 25 to 50 (see 8:23-26), this boy would forever be in the service of the Lord.
What role does submission play in prayer? How are humility and submission to God related?

Eli’s Affirmation

12 While she continued praying in the LORD’s presence, Eli watched her lips. 13 Hannah was praying silently, and though her lips were moving, her voice could not be heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and scolded her, “How long are you going to be drunk? Get rid of your wine!”
Though Eli was likely past the age of service for serving as a priest, he was monitoring activity in the tabernacle (see v. 9). As he observed Hannah’s praying, he mistook fervency in whispered prayer as something irreverent and concluded that she was intoxicated. Perhaps the type of praying demonstrated by Hannah was uncharacteristic of that time, and Eli wasn’t accustomed to seeing prayer practiced that way. Eli accused Hannah of being drunk and scolded her to sober up. Perhaps he’d witnessed such abuses in the tabernacle in the past, but he completely misread this woman. He could watch her lips, but he couldn’t see into her heart.
15 “No, my lord,” Hannah replied. “I am a woman with a broken heart. I haven’t had any wine or beer; I’ve been pouring out my heart before the Lord. 16 Don’t think of me as a wicked woman; I’ve been praying from the depth of my anguish and resentment.”
Hannah replied to this rebuke with humility. She was even willing to subject herself to a priest whose discernment could be questioned. Perhaps the greatest test of our servanthood comes in our relationships with others. Serving the Lord is one thing, but being willing to humble ourselves before other people is something else.
17 Eli responded, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant the petition you’ve requested from Him.” 18“May your servant find favor with you,” she replied. Then Hannah went on her way; she ate and no longer looked despondent.
Eli realized that he had misread Hannah. He blessed and encouraged her with a priestly benediction after recognizing God was at work in that moment. The point isn’t that our prayers should impress others to the point that we receive validation from them. We should pray sincerely and trust that God will affirm our petitions, whether through human encouragement or inner confirmation by the Holy Spirit based on His Word.
Hannah’s response to Eli again revealed her humility. The word translated favor (see v. 18) also can mean grace (KJV) and describes undeserved favor. With respect to God, grace is His unmerited favor that He extends to sinners when they repent and believe in His Son, Jesus Christ (see Eph. 2:8-9).
Notice the difference in Hannah’s attitude and demeanor as she left the place of prayer. Though her circumstances hadn’t changed, after prayer she was transformed. Prayer does that for us as well. When we get up off our knees, confident that God has heard us and will act according to His will, we can reengage life with a new attitude.
On what basis can we know that God has heard our prayer? What promises can we claim from Scripture?

HANNAH’S PRESENTATION (1 Samuel 1:26-28)

26“Please, my lord,” she said, “as sure as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the LORD.”
After her encounter with Eli in the tabernacle, Hannah went home to Ramah with her husband. God answered her prayer, and she bore a son whom she named Samuel, which meant name of God. His name indicated the divine intervention that came through his mother’s prayer (see vv. 19-20). After Samuel was weaned (usually around age 3), Hannah took the child to the annual sacrifice to dedicate Samuel to the Lord permanently (see vv. 21-22). Elkanah had the prerogative under the law to overrule her vow (see Num. 30:10-15), but he did not do so. Instead, Elkanah affirmed her plan, no doubt indicating his own devotion to the Lord (see 1 Sam. 1:23). Hannah reminded Eli of their previous encounter in which she prayed to the Lord while standing beside him, lost in communion with God.
27“I prayed for this boy, and since the LORD gave me what I asked Him for, 28 I now give the boy to the LORD. For as long as he lives, he is given to the LORD.” Then he bowed in worship to the LORD there.
God gave Hannah a child, and she gave the child back to God. Though she would later bear other children with God’s help (see 2:21), Samuel would remain at the tabernacle in service to the Lord. Only those who know the Lord through meaningful prayer attain to the deepest commitments.
How does seeing an answered prayer encourage the person who prayed? How does it encourage others who were aware of the prayer?

OBEY THE TEXT

We can approach God with our frustrations and heartfelt desires, knowing we can trust Him to do what’s best. We encourage others by praying with them in agreement, sympathizing with their heartaches. God is praised when we recognize that all we have and are come from Him.
Describe your greatest disappointment in life at this moment. Take time to pray about this issue, following the example set by Hannah.
Discuss with the group how prayer with others can be a source of encouragement. Identify actions the group can take this week to encourage one another through prayer. Record prayer needs and put into practice the actions identified.
List ways God has answered your prayers in the past. With whom can you share this list as an act of worship and thanksgiving to God?
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