1 Samuel 1-4: A Dim Light in Dark Days

I am told that rates of depression are higher in the winter months, especially in northern regions where the days are so short. Sunlight, or the lack thereof, affects our moods. We need physical light. When He inspired the writers of Scripture to describe Him as light, the all-knowing God knew how apt this image was (Psalm 27:1, John 8:12). Without God, we live in darkness.

The first four chapters of Samuel are dark. Although God’s people had been able to hold off the Philistines for several years under judges like Samson, the Philistines continued to increase in power until the terrible events of Chapter 4 take place. The high priest at the time was Eli, and his sons used their religious authority to take advantage of other people. They repeatedly dishonored God by defying His regulations for the tabernacle, and they did so in God’s own presence. Eli’s great sin was to honor his own sons more than God by allowing these crimes to continue.

But God is not mocked. When the Israelite soldiers took the most important symbol in ancient Israel — the ark of the covenant — into battle, they were defeated. Eli’s sons died in the battle. The report brought both Eli and his daughter-in-law to their deaths. As the recent widow lay dying immediately after giving birth, she named her little boy “Ichabod,” or “No Glory.”

Yet through the darkness, God still shone. The first hero or heroine in 1 Samuel is Hannah. Her story begins tragically as she bore the reproach of a childless woman in a polygamous marriage. Although the Lord does not explicitly condemn polygamy in the Old Testament, polygamy always ended in pain in the Old Testament. God’s plan is for one man and one woman. Hannah’s rival, Peninnah, mocked Hannah as they traveled to the tabernacle annually to worship the Lord. Hannah poured out her soul before the Lord, and God answered her prayers. The Light was shining in the darkness.

God’s light continued through Samuel’s life. After Hannah devoted him to the Lord, he assisted Eli, but his most important role was that of a prophet. The Lord spoke to him when he was only a boy, and the theme of his life seems to be, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:9).

What should we learn from these events? Hannah and Samuel are examples to us when we believe that darkness is all around. Hannah was a woman who cried out to the Lord with a broken heart, and God answered her prayers. God hears the prayers of His brokenhearted people today. Samuel is one who listened to the Lord his entire life. He brought God’s Word to bear in the lives of others. We may not be prophets like Samuel, but we can be faithful to the Word God has revealed in Scripture.

Hannah’s prayer in Chapter 2 is echoed in another prayer made by a younger woman hundreds of years later (Luke 1:46-55). Instead of being infertile, she was a virgin, and her Son was also a prophet — more than a prophet.

The only true answer to darkness is Jesus Christ, “the Light of the world.” He not only brought God’s Word to the world; He is God’s Word (John 1:1). As we read the first chapters of 1 Samuel, we can allow the darkness we see around us to drive us to our knees like Hannah — with the confidence that God not only brought a prophet, He brought His Son. And He will bring His Son again.

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