1 Samuel 1:14 ‘How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee.’

April 30, 2017 by David Farmer 0 comments

Posted in: Weekly Commentary

Is this a classic case of misjudgment on the part of a ‘church leader’? If it is, indeed, not classic, it is at least most pointed. And does it not speak volumes to the issue of pastoral oversight and, particularly, to several other integral matters? Matters such as not judging empirically; in other words, not basing your judgment entirely, or primarily, on appearances; not ‘judging a book by its cover,’ perhaps we could say. Eli made an uninformed judgment based solely upon what his eyes saw and his mind imagined. We are, each one of us, prone to this sort of a lapse, and are most likely, each of us, guilty of it at some time in our lives and behavior, even as Christians, and perhaps, in some instances, especially as Christians.

In this week’s passage from 1 Samuel, we have the account of the situation in the house of Elkanah. Elkanah had two wives as we are informed;

And he had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. And this man went up out of his city from year to year to worship and to sacrifice unto Jehovah of hosts in Shiloh……And when the day came that Elkanah sacrificed, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and daughters, portions: but unto Hannah he gave a double portion; for he loved Hannah, but Jehovah had shut up her womb. And her rival provoked her sore, to make her fret, because Jehovah had shut up her womb…..And as she did so year by year, when she went up to the house of Jehovah, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat.

We are further told that she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto Jehovah. She wept sore and prayed unto Jehovah. She vowed a vow that if God would give her a son, she would give him to Jehovah for all his life; he would become a Nazirite.

As Hannah was praying, Eli the priest observed her; we are specifically told that he marked—took notice of—her mouth. What he noticed was that her lips were moving, but he could hear no voice. On the basis of this ‘empirical evidence’ the old priest concluded that she was inebriated, and charged her of this drunkenness, telling her to put away thy wine from thee. The Scripture records for us, clearly, that she was speaking in her heart. Eli could see her lips moving, but he could not hear her voice, neither could he see in her heart. This was his problem. He judged her on the grounds of what he could see and not hear, forgetting or ignoring the reality that it is God who looks upon the heart, and not man. I believe that we have warrant from Eli’s response to the explanation of Hannah, that he confessed his fault to her. He told her to go in peace, and prayed that Jehovah would grant her the desire that she had presented to her God. And it is apparent that God not only heard her prayer, but gave her the son she desired.

Jesus has taught His listeners—hopefully ourselves—to “Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”—John 7:24. And this is taught as well by example in another portion of 1st Samuel. In chapter 16, after King Saul had forfeited his crown through foolish disobedience, Samuel is commanded by God to anoint a successor to sit upon the throne of Israel:

And Jehovah said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from being king over Israel? fill thy horn with oil, and go: I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite; for I have provided me a king among his sons.

So Samuel obeyed and went to Bethlehem. Upon his arrival, he sanctified Jesse and his sons and called them to come to a sacrifice. So Jesse’s sons appeared and Samuel observed the first, Eliab. The prophet gave Eliab the once-over, to use our vernacular.

He saw a young man of fine stature; tall and goodly in appearance. He considered his height and his muscular tone, and said, “Surely Jehovah’s anointed is before me.” But Jehovah’s response to the words of Samuel, the prophet likely talking to himself, was a decided proclamation of a lasting lesson for His people:  

Jehovah said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have rejected him: for Jehovah seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but Jehovah looketh on the heart.

Most Christians understand that we are not capable of looking upon the heart of any other individual. We hardly know our own hearts, much less our neighbors. David cries to God to search his heart; it is only God who can do so accurately.

That, in itself, does not free us to judge completely according to appearance. We must plead with our God for grace and wisdom; grace from God the Holy Spirit and wisdom from the Word of God. In the case of Eli and Hannah, does it appear likely that Eli was depending upon the Word and Spirit? Was he not rather depending upon his eyes and his opinion? How trustworthy are our opinions? Are there any of us that are without prejudices? Are there any of us having no biases? We know better than that if we are honest with ourselves.

There are some in Christian circles—whatever that is—that have, in fact, made their prejudices and biases to be their plumb line instead of the Word of God. Some make use of these to determine the validity of the professions of faith of others. Sadly, there are those that might claim that the Word is their plumb line, when reality demonstrates that what is meant is their confession of faith. It is required of those seeking membership in a local body to subscribe, without reservation, a particular confession of faith, be it the Westminster or London Baptist confession, or another. We need to embrace those who embrace Christ as their Savior and Sovereign Lord, and deal with any doctrinal concerns from the lectern and pulpit.

 David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church

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