1 Samuel: Reversal

1 Samuel 2:1–36

Every book of the Bible has a thesis statement. When we read Scripture, we keep our eyes out for that verse or sentence or paragraph that summarizes everything we’re looking at.

In 1 Samuel, that thesis statement is really a poem, verses 1 thru 10. In fact, when we look at the 1 and 2 Samuel as one whole, we see that poems figure prominently in the story. There’s a prologue (1 Sam 2:1–10). There’s an intermission (2 Sam 1:19–27). And there’s an epilogue (2 Sam 22:2–23:7). Think about it. If you’re compiling this story, why put poems in these places? Why include them at all?

Like all good poetry, this poem in chapter works on several levels. First of all, it speaks directly to Hannah’s answered prayer. She was barren. She poured her heart out to God. She’s had a son, Samuel, and now she breaks out in song. She’s bursting with gratitude and giving God all the credit. There’s a lesson for us right there in that.

On another level, the biblical writer is laying a foundation for us of what to expect from God throughout this story. This is the sort of deity that God is like. Rarely does God make an explicit, face-to-face appearance. No burning bushes in this story. Instead, we’re shown characters as they make decisions based on what they already know about this God. According to this poem, God is unique. This is a God of knowledge. He knows the state of the world. And He acts to humble the proud, strong, and mighty, while he brings good things to the poor and lowly.

On a third level, we’re given a lens through which understand all the action that will follow. Because God humbles and exalts, every character we meet in these stories is on a trajectory up or a trajectory down. And in fact, immediately following we’re told that the sons of Eli “were worthless men.” They are corrupt and take advantage of people seeking God, and God is going to do something about it.

Hannah’s prayer is for all of us who have ever wondered how long must good people suffer and bad people succeed. God knows. And God will act.

What about you? What do you see?


About peterjwhite

I am a pastor to college students in Tulsa, OK.
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