1Samuel 1: 4 - 20

There was a man... whose name was Elkanah... an Ephraimite. (1: 1) Ephraim was a son of Joseph and his Egyptian wife (Gen. 46: 20); that is, by later Jewish standards at least, a half-breed. Is it not interesting, then, that this man's son, Samuel, becomes a priest of Israel even though not a descendant of Aaron nor of the tribe of Levi?

In her wretchedness, she prayed to the LORD (10). Hannah was wretched because the LORD had closed her womb. (5, 6) This is another instance where the Israelites (not just the author), not knowing the actual cause of something, attributed it to the LORD. We, who "know better", need to be reminded that their attribution was not the same as blaming. The matter is really quite simple; if they could not understand or explain something, they often gave credit for it to YHWH. It is a totally neutral stance.

In her wretchedness, she prayed to the LORD. It is obvious from the context that Hannah bears no ill-will against God for the suffering of Your maidservant (11). Rather, it is YHWH to whom she turns in her distress because she believes God is the one who can do something about her condition, and because she trusts the LORD will listen to her prayer and be gracious and merciful to her.

She prays: "if You will... I will...." (11) To our modern western ears, this sounds like bargaining. "If you throw a radio in, I'll buy the car." But Hannah is not haggling; she is expressing a deep level of trust. The offer of her son to God's service is a vow of thanksgiving in response to the mercy she hopes for and trusts to receive. It is a grateful obligation that she places upon herself, a living sacrifice that she offers to make.

When we pray to God, do we only ask? And then wonder why we so often do not receive? Is it enough to say "thank-you, Lord," even if we do so in advance? Or is there another aspect to prayer which we overlook?

1Samuel 2: 1 - 10

If one does not take the characteristics of Hebrew poetry into consideration, one could get some mistaken ideas. The third line above does not mean that Scripture either teaches or condones gloating(1) over someone else (our victim), adding insult to injury. Rather, the parallelism calls us to read the third line in conjunction with the fourth, for they are various ways of expressing a common thought.

I gloat and I rejoice are related, the prior informed by the latter. Hannah's gloating, then, is not prideful dart-throwing at Peninnah, but a properly proud (grateful) exultance in God's gracious response to her prayer. Similarly, in Your deliverance defines over my enemies; the triumph is YHWH's, and my enemies are not just Peninnah and her malicious taunting but, more seriously, Hannah's barrenness. She does not gloat that her rival (6) has been silenced, but because God has won the victory by giving her the child she desired.

Hannah's prayer-- her psalm (they are frequently equivalent)-- is a description, a prophecy, of the upside-down, inside-out "otherness" of life with God, as Jesus and the Evangelists strove to teach the disciples.

Hebrews 10: 11-14, (15-18), 19-25
So by one offering [Christ] has perfected for ever those who are consecrated by it. (14) The author repeats two of his main thoughts here. The first is one offering which was given once for all(2) in contrast with: Daily every priest stands performing his service and time after time offering the same sacrifices, which can never remove sins. (11) [T]he prescribed offerings and sacrifices cannot give the worshipper[s] a clear conscience and so bring [them] to perfection (9: 9, see 10: 1). But now Christ has come... and secured an eternal liberation. (9: 11..12)

The second is the effect and efficacy of that one offering: [Jesus'] blood will cleanse our conscience from the deadness of our former ways (9: 14). And it is by the will of God that we have been consecrated (10: 10) and perfected for ever; therefore the worshippers, cleansed once for all, would no longer have any sense of sin (10: 2).

But then the author throws in a kicker: those who are consecrated by it. The implication is that there are some who partake of this blessing, and others who do not. The crucial question for us is: how does one become consecrated by Christ's offering? The author does not address this here, but assumes that his readers are "in". Can you make that same assumption on Sunday morning?

[T]hen [God] adds, 'and their sins and wicked deeds I will remember no more.' And where these have been forgiven, there are no further offerings for sin. (17-18) Now since we have been consecrated, sanctified (NRSV), made holy (NIV), perfected for ever, liberated from sins committed under the former covenant (9: 15), cleansed from the deadness of our former ways and inwardly cleansed from a guilty conscience, (22) then why do we continue to have any sense of sin?

Note how the author continues. For if we deliberately persist in sin after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there can be no further sacrifice for sins; there remains only a terrifying expectation of judgement (26-27). Now what truth is he talking about, if not that of the will of God for us and the effect and efficacy of Jesus' sacrifice? Having received the knowledge of [that] truth, then, what sin do we deliberately persist in other than the refusal to believe, accept and trust: that is, the denial of the liberation-- freedom in Christ-- that God has provided for us in mercy and grace?

So now, my friends, the blood of Jesus makes us free to enter the sanctuary with confidence (19); we are forgiven, we are consecrated, sanctified, made holy, we have been cleansed and are pure, we have been made acceptable to God by the new and living way which [Jesus] has opened for us through the curtain, the way of his flesh. (20) The message is one of complete and absolute deliverance, liberation, salvation, freedom from sin and God's judgement upon it. It follows that there is now no condemnation for those who are united with Christ Jesus. In Christ Jesus the life-giving law of the Spirit has set you free from the law of sin and death. (Rom. 8: 1-2) It is for freedom that Christ set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and refuse to submit again to the yoke of slavery. (Gal. 5: 1)

Mark 13: 1 - 8

Jesus said to him, 'You see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another; they will all be thrown down.' (2) Now we know that many of the same stones that Jesus and the disciples looked at are still standing; the most evident portion is the "Wailing Wall". So either (a) Jesus was a liar or (b) a false prophet, (c) the time of which He was speaking has not yet come, or (d) it is only a story-- a parable-- that Mark tells in order to convey some "hidden" truth. Or the last two might both be correct.

Suppose that it is another of Mark's parables? What "hidden" truth might it be about? Perhaps a paraphrase will make it clear. "You see these great traditions? Not one teaching will be left upon another; they will all be thrown down." But some still stand.

You see, the Church has this great doctrine of one baptism, but the Exodus story relates (metaphors for) two of them. The Church has this great teaching about one salvation, but the Bible indicates that there are two of them. And the Church has this great dogma-- you might call it a fetish-- about the impending judgement for our sins, when the Gospel announces clearly and repeatedly that the sin problem has been dealt with and disposed of by Christ's sacrifice.

Thus did Hannah prophesy God's powerful victory over the law of sin and death and ultimate triumph over humanity's greatest deficiency by consecrating us, bestowing (imputing) righteousness and holiness upon us, so that we might enter the sanctuary with confidence. There God, whose eyes are too pure to look upon evil, Who cannot countenance wrongdoing, (Hab. 1: 13) may make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; and may turn his face toward you and give you peace. (Num. 6: 25..26, NIV)

Beloved, as you journey through the wilderness of this earthly life, be no longer conscious of sins, for God is no longer concerned about them. Instead, begin to exercise your faith by forgetting sin and concentrating on love-- of God, first, and then of your neighbor. [L]ove is the fulfilment of the law. (Rom. 13: 10) This is the criterion by which the flock-- the Church-- will be separated at Christ's judgement into sheep and goats. "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live." (Lk. 10: 27-28, NIV)

1. 1 Feel evil satisfaction, revel in another's woe, observe smugly, etc.

2. 2 See 7: 27, 9: 12, 9: 26, 10: 2 and 10: 10.

3. 3 "It Is Well With My Soul"

(comments to Phil at ENAPXH@aol.com )