Now we’ve met Samuel. Answered prayer personified! You will recall how desperately Hannah had wanted a son. While we saw the side of her who was feeling inadequate and hurt from the bullying, she was probably also feeling the emptiness that can come when God doesn’t give a woman a child. Those feeling are deep.
Can you imagine her joy when she realized God had heard her prayer and answered it! Think of a time in your life when you turned around and God granted a desire of your heart. It could be as simple as an open parking space at the mall! Multiply that almost insignificant moment with giving life to a child, and you may be able to relate to Hannah’s joy!
Hannah shows us raw humility and great wisdom. She doesn’t know what to do with her despair, so she cries out to the Lord. “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut.” What a vow!
We may remember that Samson was dedicated to the Lord as a Nazarite. He was set aside for God’s purpose, and his great strength and power from God was in his uncut locks. Presumably, this type of lifestyle was known to Hannah. She wanted a child so badly she was willing to give him back to the Lord.
Have you ever done something you were told to do but had no idea “why” you were doing it? I’m sure Gideon had a bit of that going on when God told him, among other things, to “pull down your father’s altar to Baal, and cut down the Asherah pole standing beside it.”
What do we see here? Gideon didn’t question God but got to work on the requested task. He did wait until the dark of night so he would go undetected. Gideon was pretty sure that this plan would cause a big stir and may have even feared for his life. Yet, he listened to God. That’s my takeaway from today’s reading.
What a roller coaster of emotions. As we spend quiet time together today it’s time to really focus in on Jesus’ final hours with his friends, those closest to him. Jesus knew all along this day was coming, yet now that it is here there was so much to say. His disciples still didn’t seem to understand fully the importance of what was about to unfold. We can see clearly, yet do we still grasp what is happening? We’ve read the words, but what is happening in our hearts?
Each of these passages reveals something we can hold on to as we journey through our own dark night. There are beautiful promises. How often have we questioned something happening our lives, in our world? Jesus’ words in John, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” Like Thomas, we’re still not sure, we want more assurance, more information. Jesus calms our fears when he says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” Jesus is our answer. When the tempests of life try to overwhelm us, we need only rest in these words. We may not know what the future holds, but we know who does know. Now we can find peace in the Father.
How did Jesus spend his last days? All these years later, what do his final words say to us? We have entered into Holy Week. In pastoral ministry over the years, this has been one of the busiest weeks of the year. Easter morning would often arrive and the week before would seem only a blur of preparations. How can you celebrate the resurrection joy when you haven’t taken time to feel the agony and desperation of Jesus’ final hours?
This year, in 2020, the whole world has been given a notice to isolate, to “socially distance” from co-workers, friends, neighbors, and loved ones. No church gatherings will take place. There are plenty of people feeling the agony of loss and the desperation of the unknown. Yet for this week, I want us all to try and focus on Jesus. Let’s set aside the craziness of the world’s events and just be in the presence of Jesus. Walk with him in his final days. Feel his passion. Sense his strength. Hear his promise that death has no power.