The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts. – 1 Samuel 2:7
I think we have all had that moment where we wish our circumstances were different. Maybe we were the bullied child in school and wished our bully would be brought down, or perhaps we had a supervisor who persecuted us, and we wished that Human Resources would catch on and fire the person. Whatever the situation, it is almost universal that we would be in a situation in life where we were on the wrong side of a power dynamic.
In today’s verse, Hannah has just had her power dynamic shifted. Previously the barren wife of Elkanah, she has now been blessed with a son. Her status and worth as a woman and a wife would have been based on her ability to bear children, so now she has been transformed from the lowest of women to a position of strength.
A twist of this story that is in the previous chapter is that once she bore him, she gives him to God to serve. It is an interesting twist because it reminds us that everything we have belongs to God—we have nothing that is our own. Understanding this is the key to true richness.
As for her son, he became the prophet and judge Samuel. You might have heard of him?
Lord, help us to remember that nothing we own is of our own making—everything we have comes from you. Help us to share our riches that your name might be glorified and your work on earth be magnified. Amen.
The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.– 1 Samuel 2:6
“The LORD killeth, and maketh alive; he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.” (King James)
“GOD brings death and GOD brings life, brings down to the grave and raises up.” (The Message, Peterson)
No matter what translation you read, the message is the same. God is in charge. God is the God of life, and death is God’s too. A quiet moment of reflection reminds us: God loves us, God moves through our lives with us, and God holds each of us as God’s unique and treasured child. We have one life and we’re privileged to be given time to choose to walk with God just as God chooses to walk with us. So, God be with you. (God is with you, you know.)
God be in my head, and in my understanding;
God be in mine eyes, and in my looking;
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
God be at my end, and at my departing.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn. – 1 Samuel 2:5
“The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn.” We’ve all heard the well-known saying, “Be careful what you wish for.” God knows what we need, want and long for. When we don’t get what we dearly need or want we must be assured as to the reasons why. When we receive more than what we ever desired or needed, we must accept it and know that it is a gift from God.
It is very important to learn to accept what we are given, whether we want it or not. Some are given so much and some so little. God wants us to make the best of our situations. Another good old saying, “it is what you make of it,” is so appropriate when receiving and reacting to life’s circumstances.
By accepting all that God has given to us, or not given to us, we are responding wisely and exalting God as we are taught.
Our Father in Heaven, we know that you know our every want and need. We thank you for all the blessings you have bestowed upon us. Let us remember from where all things come and live according to your will, even when it is not our will. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
-Sister Katharine, OSB
The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. – 1 Samuel 2:4
Many of us have heard the expression “gird up your loins” relating to some esoteric Old Testament passage, usually something from the chapters of Job where the Lord is taking Job to task for questioning why every bad thing befell him. It seems to be the Biblical version of the command to “man up”, so much so that the “Art of Manliness” website features an illustrated guide on how to gird up one’s loins, which is a tutorial on how to turn the tunic worn in Biblical times into a pair of shorts that makes battling one’s enemies easier. This is accomplished by gathering the fabric, pulling it through the legs, dividing it in half, and then tying it around one’s waist. (For the pictures of this, go here.)
The word “gird” actually means to “encircle with a belt or band” or “to secure on the body with a belt or band”. Buildings have “girders” made of steel that support key parts of them, and young men would be “girded” with belts of knighthood in medieval times. “Girding” provides extra support.
In today’s passage, Hannah sings of “the bows of the mighty [being] broken” and “the feeble gird[ing] on strength”. Her world was one where Israel was under constant attack from enemies, and archers’ bows would be a familiar item as would a sash or belt that girded a sword to a warrior. The idea of strength encircling me in my weak moments is incredibly comforting because it is a reminder that I do not have to depend on my own strength to push through difficult things—I have Someone who wraps me in their strength! The bows of the Enemy are no match for the strength that surrounds me. How amazing and magnificent is our God!
Thank you, Lord, for surrounding me in my weakest moments and fighting with me when I cannot fight. Amen.
Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. – 1 Samuel 2:3
Words have tremendous power, for good or ill…to hurt or heal. Whether hurtful or healing, however, I’m constantly humbled by the inadequacy of language to speak the ineffable truth of God’s knowledge. I suppose that’s why that even with all the greats of English literature to inspire me, I find myself turning instead to a Persian poet from the 13th century, Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, when I ponder the bittersweet failure of language in our effort to apprehend God’s presence. As Rumi put it:
Both mourn, the angels, the prophets, and this sadness I feel has taken from me the taste of language, so that I cannot say the flavor of my being apart. Speak with the language of love. This is how it always is when I finish a poem. A great silence overcomes me, and I wonder why I ever thought to use language.
Lord, please keep us mindful of what our words say about us. Are we being prideful or arrogant? Are we recognizing the power our words may have over others? Let our language be infused with your grace and communicate your love.
“There is no Holy One like the Lord, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.” – 1 Samuel 2:2
As Hannah praises the Lord, she characterizes God as a Rock. This simile of God as Rock is used frequently in the Psalms and often seems to have the meaning of refuge and/or salvation. When, like Hannah, you are in the desert, any rock is going to provide a little shade and a place to hide from your enemies. How much more of a refuge is God, the holy one!
I grew up in the rolling hills of northeastern Oklahoma and always loved our summer trips to Colorado where my father was born. Halfway across Kansas, we could begin to see the Rocky Mountains, and their grandeur and majesty spoke to me of God’s presence and power. Now I am blessed to live in this beautiful Skagit Valley where mountains remind me daily that God is my rock.
Beginning in 7th grade I attended a Methodist church where I sang in the choir, participated in MYF, and went to Sunday night services where we sang praise songs from a book called “Upper Room Hymns.” One of my favorites was “Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me”, and as I recalled that period of my life, I began to wonder how many songs I know that characterize God/Jesus as a Rock. It turns out there are a lot! Here are a few of my favorites: “I Will Call Upon the Lord”; “On Christ, the Solid Rock I Stand”; “Rock of My Salvation”; “Oh, Lord, My Rock and My Redeemer”; and from Flor y Canto, and “El Señor es mi Fuerza”.
Dearest Lord, our Rock and Salvation, as we await again the celebration of the coming of your Son, help us to magnify your name through our praise and our actions. Lead us to glorify your name and share your blessings with those in need. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.
Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory.” – 1 Samuel 2:1
Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord…” Hannah longed for but was unable to bear a child for her husband Elkanah. Finally, she gave birth to a baby boy and named him Samuel. She was so happy that she had what she had wanted and asked for in prayer for so long that she gave this baby boy, her beloved son, to God.
I think of how long I have wanted and yearned for something. If this thing were given to me, would I give it completely to God? I firmly believe that anything and everything that we want and is given to us should be handed over to God completely, with no attachments or conditions. Everything we own; our education, profession, talents, gifts, even our children should be happily handed over.
In this world of self-assertiveness, high efficiency, complete productivity, lofty goals, and self-made success, do we ever think of giving it all to God? Instead of thinking about how hard we worked to get what we want, we should bow down and give complete and sincere thanks to God for allowing us to have it all and for giving it all to us in the first place.
Father in Heaven, thank you for all you have allowed and given to me in this life here on earth. Let me remember from where it all came and love and treat everything I have accordingly. Amen.
-Sister Katharine, OSB