November 18, 2012
First Samuel 1:4-20
The hill country of Ephraim boasted the most important temple of the day, the hill-shrine of Shiloh, where the sacred Ark was kept. The chief priest was Eli. Elkanah, a prosperous man of the town, had two wives (as permitted: see Deuteronomy 21:15-17), Peninnah had several children, but Hannah had none. Peninnah lorded it over Hannah and made life miserable for her, but Elkanah loved her and cared not that she was childless. Hannah went by herself to the temple and prayed for a son, and vowed to give him back to God as a nazirite. The nazirites devoted themselves to God and, as a symbol of their devotion, never cut their hair or beard. Hannah got into trouble with Eli because she prayed voicelessly, instead of aloud. But Eli learned of his error and prayed that her prayer be fulfilled. Full of confidence, she went to her husband. They had a sort of date night, during which the great prophet Samuel was conceived.
This last of our series of readings from Hebrews, has three parts. The opening suggests a primitive notion of Christ the King. He doesn’t stand, like a human priest, but sits like a king, using his enemies as his footstool. I suppose in that ancient world there were many more than one conquering king who humiliated the defeated king my making him get down on hands and knees before the throne to become his conqueror’s footstool. In Psalm 110, this cruel practice is attributed to God. The author of Hebrews really likes the passage and quotes it twice, in 1:13, and in our reading at 10:13.
Our author then does an about-face and evokes a Christ easily recognized by us today, a heavenly king whose self-sacrifice projects the law of God into human hearts, giving people moral autonomy. The author makes this point indirectly by quoting that passage I so love in Jeremiah, 31:33-34, where God says he will plant the law in individual hearts.
Then the writer shifts into a third mode: he becomes the pastor. He enjoins his people to hold steadfast, to do good, and to wait for Christ to come again.