Hannah was praying in her heart, and though her lips were moving, her voice could not be heard. So Eli thought she was drunk
1 Samuel 1:13-18. (SHILOH.)Leviticus 19:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:14), and is especially incumbent on those who occupy positions of authority. But how seldom is rebuke given or received aright! Eli, the aged judge and high priest, sitting on the judgment seat, "by a post of the temple of the Lord," and observing a woman exhibiting signs of excited feeling, severely rebuked her for being intoxicated with wine. In his words, and what followed, we have rebuke -
I. UTTERED WITHOUT JUSTICE (vers. 13, 14). There was certainly apparent ground for the judgment he formed; for excitement caused by wine was probably no uncommon thing at the tabernacle in those corrupt times. But he did not "judge righteously" (John 7:24). Learn -
1. That apparent ground for censure is often found on inquiry to be really groundless. Therefore there should be proof before reproof.
2. That the most excellent are often the most misjudged, especially in religious matters. Whilst sensual excitement was often seen, spiritual excitement was rare. Religious services were formal, cold, and dead; and holy fervour was naturally misunderstood and misinterpreted by superficial observers. So they who were filled with the Spirit on the day of Pentecost were accused of being filled with new wine. And men of large views, disinterested motives, and exalted aims are often condemned by the ignorant, selfish, and unspiritual.
3. That the highest in authority are liable to err in judgment. Infallibility belongs to God alone. The assumption of it by men is rebuked by their own manifest mistakes and failings, and is an insult to heaven.
4. That persons who think that they see clearly the faults of others are commonly blind to their own transgressions (Matthew 7:3; Romans 2:1). Eli was unconscious of his own easily besetting sin, which consisted in his indulgent treatment of his children and their vices.
5. That those who censure others should themselves be undeserving of censure.
6. That our own exposure to judgment should make us cautious in passing judgment on others (Matthew 7:1-5).
7. That it is the part of charity to put the best construction on their conduct. "Believeth all things; hopeth all things." Eli exhibited a want of knowledge, consideration, charity, and tenderness. How different the High Priest and Judge "with whom we have to do"!
II. BORNE WITH MEEKNESS. Hannah was not only innocent of the vice for which she was rebuked, but was at the time uttering a vow that if the Lord would give her a son he should be a Nazarite, and a life long protest against that vice and other prevailing evils. Her fervour of spirit was equalled by her calmness, self-control, and discreet answer to the reproach of Eli (vers. 15, 16). Learn -
1. That resentment and retaliation toward unjust accusers afford no evidence of innocence. Some persons when rebuked fly into a passion, and utter worse judgments on others than have been pronounced on themselves.
2. That a good conscience can be calm under accusation.
3. That appearances which seem to justify censure should be as fully as possible explained.
4. That those who say they are not guilty of sin should show their abhorrence of sin. "Call not thine handmaid a daughter of Belial" ('a worthless woman'). In her view intoxication was a great sin, and deserving of severe condemnation.
5. How beautiful is "the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit."
6. To look to Christ as the perfect pattern of the spirit here exhibited, and the source of the grace which is needed for its exercise (1 Peter 2:20-23). "Let me find grace in thy sight."
III. TURNED INTO BENEDICTION (vers. 17, 18). Learn -
1. That those who see that they have erred in judgment should be ready to acknowledge their error.
2. That meekness and patience are adapted to change a severe reprover into a kind friend.
3. That the endurance of rebuke in a right spirit is often a means of obtaining a favourable answer to prayer. God himself spoke through the voice of the high priest (ver. 17; John 11:51).
4. That it also causes perturbation and sorrow to give place to peace and joy (Matthew 5:5, 11). "Strive to rejoice when others use towards thee words of injury or rebuke, or despise thee. For a rich treasure lies hid beneath this dust; and, if thou take it willingly, thou wilt soon find thyself rich unperceived by those who have bestowed this gift upon thee" (Scupoli). - D.
Therefore Eli thought she was drunken.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
1. It was accompanied with a vow, expressed in language the most suitable and pious, Are we desiring anything of God? We ought to think of Him, as well as of ourselves. It is thus we pray according to His will, and then we may know that He heareth us.
2. Observe the manner of her devotion. "Now Hannah, she spake in her heart," etc. There are things which we may not be at liberty to communicate to the nearest relation, or to the dearest friend; but to God only. Hereby she testified her belief that God was omniscient. She knew that words were not necessary to inform a Being to whom all hearts are open It is better to want language than disposition when we address Him, Who "seeketh such to worship Him as worship in spirit and in truth." It showed also that in dealing with God, she desired the notice of none besides Him. Jehu said, "Come. see my zeal for the Lord of hosts." The Pharisees prayed in the corners of the streets, and to be seen of men. "But," says the Saviour, "thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet," etc.
3. Observe the misconception and censure to which it gave rise. This was the very reproach which Peter and his fellows met with on the day of Pentecost. The multitude "mocking, said, These men are full of new wine." But this reproach came from enemies But here we find a good man, even the priest of the Most High God, issuing an equally rash censure Some err in judging by the effects of constitutional temperament They find a man of great vivacity, and loquaciousness, and ready to speak on all occasions, and to every one he meets, concerning his own experience and the things of God; and they set him down as a very lively Christian, and of great spirituality They see another shrinking from observation, and seemingly afraid to open his lips, lest he should utter more than he feels; and they consider him as a lifeless soul, and under the fear of man. But if they duly reflected, and judged properly, they would ascribe much to the mercury of the one and the phlegm of the other, which affect them in all other things as well as in religion. Many are too much biased in their judgment by real faults and failings. These need not be pleaded for; but through natural infirmity there may be much irregularity, where there is also not a little share of sincerity. Especially let us guard against vilifying or censuring the devotion of others, or the mode of their worship; lest we deem as hypocrisy, or fanaticism, or superstition, what is truly conscientious and accepted of God. It is probable that Eli had seen many abuses of this kind, some even in his own family, and he may have stationed himself by a part of the temple to observe, and endeavour to repress such scandals. The guilty often occasion suspicions and reproaches with regard to the innocent. When a disease is epidemical, many are feared who are not infected.
4. Observe the manner in which Hannah received the sad and insulting rebuke. She makes no rash appeal to Heaven, such as is often the effect and proof of hardened guilt. She utters no bitter complaint against her accuser. She does not bid him to look at home, and upbraid him with the conduct of his own sons. She does not tell him how ill and unbecoming it was for one, in his place and office, to abuse a poor disconsolate woman at the footstool of divine mercy. She knew that a proper representation of her condition and conduct in respectful language would be the best argument in her favour. Eli was an imperfect character, yet there were in him traces of real excellencies, and his ingenuousness is one of them. He is open to conviction, and willing to acknowledge himself mistaken, and ready to make amends for the injury he had done her, by his blessing and his prayers. A lively writer has said, "I was mistaken" are the three hardest words to pronounce in the English language. Yet it seems but acknowledging that we are wiser then we were before to see our error, and humbler than we were before to own it. But so it is; and Goldsmith observes that Frederic the Great did himself more honour by his letter to his senate, stating that he had just lost a great battle by his own fault, than by all the victories he had won.
5. Observe her relief and satisfaction. "And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad." Her satisfaction arose from two things. First, the rectifying Eli's mistake concerning her, and the blessing he had pronounced upon her; for whet can be more consoling than to stand fair in the judgment of those we value? "To live in the estimation of the wise and good," says Robinson, "is like walking in an eastern spice grove." Secondly, the confidence in God, which is derived from prayer.
(Helen Plumptre.)Bernard chanced to espy a poor man meanly apparelled, he would say to himself, 'Truly, Bernard, this man hath more patience beneath his cross than thou hast;' but if he saw a rich man delicately clothed, then he would say, 'It may be that this man, under his delicate clothing, hath a better soul than thou hast under thy religious habit!'" This showed an excellent charity! Oh, that we could learn it! It is easy to think evil of all men, for there is sure to he some fault about each one which the least discerning may readily discover; but it is far more worthy of a Christian, and shows much more nobility of soul, to spy out the good in each fellow believer. This needs a larger mind as well as a better heart, and hence it should be a point of honour to practise ourselves in it till we obtain an aptitude for it. Any simpleton might be set to sniff out offensive odours; but it would require a scientific man to bring to us all the fragrant essences and rare perfumes which lie hid in field and garden. Oh, to learn the science of Christian charity! It is an art far more to be esteemed than the most lucrative of human labours. This choice art of love is the true alchemy. Charity towards others, abundantly practised, would be the death of envy and the life of fellowship, the overthrow of self and the enthronement of grace.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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