Jump Start # 2198
1 Samuel 1:13 “As for Hannah, she was speaking in her heart, only her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard. So Eli thought she was drunk.”
I talked about this passage in my sermon yesterday, but want to expand some thoughts. Hannah was without a child. She was praying desperately to the Lord. Eli witnessed this. Eli was sitting on the steps of the temple. That’s the setting where this takes place.
Eli watched Hannah move her lips, but no words were coming out. He assumed she was drunk. He didn’t think she had just had a few drinks, but that she was drunk. That was a sin under the law. He not only assumed that, but he rebuked her by saying, “How long will you make yourself drunk. Put away the wine from you.” Put up the booze, honey. Stop drinking, sister. It’s shameful, it’s wrong and of all places to show up drunk, at the temple.
The problem with all of this is that Eli was wrong. His only evidence was that her lips were moving but no words were coming out. She wasn’t staggering. She was laying passed out. She wasn’t surrounded by empty wine bottles. Eli did what we so often do, make an assumption and then accuse someone. In today’s world, someone would witness Hannah and shot a text to one of the elders. The text would read, “I saw one of our members drunk. I think we ought to withdraw fellowship this week from them.” And, with that, the hornets of Hell all get stirred up and buzzing. The person who saw the modern Hannah would tell another member. Word spreads. The critical eyes and judgmental hearts would convene and within a couple of weeks a sweet Hannah who was simply praying to her God would be ridiculed and shamed to the point that she would likely never come back again. And, when the truth finally surfaced, she was only praying, and not drinking, those that destroyed her would say, “It was a simple mistake.” No, it wasn’t and worse, someone’s heart was crushed in the process.
The problem with Eli, the problem we have is that we immediately assume the worse. Why don’t we begin by thinking the best. That never happens. We see two people talking quietly and immediately we just know that they are talking about us and down that same street we go of assuming, accusing and judging. The two people may not even be talking about us at all.
The problem with Eli, the problem we have, is that we are quick to execute first and find the facts later. It ought to be just the opposite. If it bothered Eli so much, he should have approached Hannah and asked, “how are things going? I noticed you were talking to someone but no one was there?” With that, she could have talked about her prayer and her desire from the Lord. Instead, Eli points the finger of condemnation and accuses her of being drunk. Immediately, that puts a person on the defense. They have been accused and now they must prove their innocence.
That’s the problem with assumptions, a person just doesn’t know. And, when we immediately begin with the negative and the wrong, we can certainly build a great case against someone. Someone leaves services before it’s over. Boy, the assumers go into overtime. The person probably didn’t like the sermon. Preacher probably stepped on their toes. I always thought that they were weak in faith. And, on and on the assumptions go. And, like Hannah, from our passage, maybe the person had to go take care of a sick parent. Maybe they weren’t feeling well. Maybe they had to go to work. Rather than thinking the worst, why not try thinking the best.
Hannah in her own defense pleaded with Eli not to consider her as a worthless woman. Interesting expression. Interesting because in the next chapter God refers to Eli’s sons as worthless. Maybe Eli had just gotten so old and grumpy that he thought everyone was worthless. That spirit can destroy a month of good sermons. It drives visitors away and it becomes the elephant in the room that no one knows what to do with. The spirit of Eli can be found in preachers, who are quick to accuse and ready to judge. It can be found in the heart of an elder who would rather drive some off as to have to work and help some.
How do I defeat the spirit of Eli within me? The easiest way is always Jesus. Look to the Lord. Compassion, kindness and gentleness are the characteristics that we need. Jesus was inviting. His disciples often wanted to run people off, but not Jesus. The golden rule, which sums up the sermon on the mount, is how we overcome the little Eli in all of us. Would you like for someone to give you the benefit of the doubt? Then, you give it to them. Would you like for someone to think the best of you? Then you think the best of them. Would you like someone to stand in your corner and support you? Then you do the same for them. Would you like someone to help you rather than destroy you? You do the same. Treat others like you would like to be treated.
It’s time to start thinking the best and not the worst. We live in troubled times. People love to destroy those who do not agree with them. The people of God must be different. We see this from this lesson. Sweet Hannah was rebuked by the priest. We wonder who heard that rebuke? We wonder who went home thinking, “Hannah was drunk and Eli tore into her.” Not everyone could say what Hannah did. Many would have left in tears. Many would have been so ashamed that they would never face Eli again.
It’s certainly hard to see clearly when there is a board in your eye. Sometimes we don’t even recognize we have one until we have hurt an innocent person like Hannah. Maybe it’s time we realize that we are family, and we started acting like a family that loves each other. Dysfunction among God’s people is our death. It’s the cause of church splits and hindered growth. Maybe it’s time we stopped acting like Heaven’s Police Squad, and let God be in charge of things.
Sadly, as the story ends and Eli learns that Hannah was not drunk, all he says is, “Go peace and may God grant your wish.” That’s it? No apology. No, forgive me for thinking the worse. No hugs. Go. Leave. I don’t know if Eli ever got the plank out of his eye. He may have died that way.
Hopefully for us, there is time to do better.