That little romance - the Book
of Ruth - stands as a link between the terrible spiritual tragedy
- "Judges" - and God's reaction thereto in David.
"Ruth" ends with "Boaz begat Obed; and Obed begat
Jesse, and Jesse begat David." The beginning of 1 Samuel
sees the terrible hang-over of "Judges" and reveals the
unspeakably low state that things were in spiritually. This
cannot go on, and although a long time may elapse before the
glory returns, God takes the vital step that will lead to the
glory. That step is taken in the heart of a woman: a woman who in
every way embodies the principle of Divine Sovereignty. There is
so much in likeness between Hannah's song and the "Magnificat"
of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Read them both, and you will feel
that Mary has been occupied with Hannah's "Magnificat".
It is in the heart of this
woman, Hannah, that God moves to His highest peak in the Old
Testament. It is not easy in reading those early chapters of 1
Samuel to get away from the impression that Hannah had a
passionate and heart-broken concern for the Lord's testimony.
They went up to the Temple from year to year and must have seen
and been involved in the conditions and practices described in
chapter two, verses 12-17, etc.
That Hannah should later trust
her so young child to live amidst such conditions needs some
explanation. We would think that such would be the very last
place in which any mother who cared for her child would have him
live. However, it proved to be right whatever her judgment may
have been. The point is that frustration of motherhood only made
that mother instinct unbearable, and led her out to God in such a
way that if God undertook in such an impossible situation, God
should have the fruit of her travail. The mother instinct was
God's way of moving in relation to the recovery of His testimony
In this case - and it has often
been so - the masculine strength, the principle of authority and
government, while being very necessary, was not enough; indeed,
it would fail by itself. The need was of a mother heart of
sorrow, pain, travail, and distress. It was not all personal and
self-centred. It was toward the Lord, and sacrifice entered into
it very deeply. It was indeed a costly way. To have that passion
beaten up to breaking-point meant reproach. Hannah was laughed
at, ridiculed, despised, and discredited. She was misunderstood
and maligned even by the religious head of the people, Eli. Hers
was a lonely path. Her husband gave her things, but he
could not really help her. This was the vessel which, by such a
history, God was preparing a long way ahead for His recovery of
Lest it should be thought that
we are being sentimental and fanciful, let us at once say that we
are not thinking in terms of male and female necessarily. The
Apostle Paul combined the strength of masculine authority and
government in his own person and ministry with the tenderness of
motherhood. He said: "My little children, of whom I am again
in travail" (Galatians 4:19). It is a disposition, a heart,
a capacity for suffering and sorrow born of love.
Such is God's need and way.
There can be no loss of Divine values without suffering
resulting. It is the law of travail instituted and established
when man first forfeited the best that God provided. We shall
look in vain for any instance of letting go of Divine values
which did not result in a train of suffering. But there is that
which we may call vicarious suffering; that is, an entering into
God's loss with a heart of distress, a 'filling up of that which
is lacking of the sufferings of Christ for His body's sake, which
is the church'. That is what, in figure, Hannah did.
Samuel was the birth of the
prophetic spirit when there was "no open vision". He
inherited the travailing spirit of his mother. It was his unhappy
lot to spend much of his life in suffering the knowledge that an
alternative to God's best had been chosen by the people, and his
counsel and warning were rejected and flouted. His judgment and
leadership were discounted and ignored until the inevitable
troubles arose. But he did bring in the "man after God's
heart", who in his turn shared the sorrow and suffering of
God during the reign of Saul, man's choice.
What we have desired to
indicate is that to bridge the gap between spiritual declension
and loss, on the one side, and God's fullest possible purpose, on
the other, God has always had to find that which Hannah so
beautifully and effectively represents, that is, a vessel with a
heart well-nigh broken for His testimony.
First published in "A Witness and A
Testimony" magazine, Nov-Dec 1965, Vol 43-6