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Leading Question: Does it work to bargain with the Lord when we want something very badly?

Key Passage:

  • 1 Samuel 1-2, Baby Samuel brings joy to childless Hannah

Questions:

  1. Bargaining with the Lord. Hannah made a bargain with the Lord, promising to dedicate a male child as a nazirite if the Lord would bless her with a son. When is it legitimate to strike such bargains with the Lord? Are they recommended or simply allowed? Or would we go further and actually prohibit them? What can we learn from Hannah’s bargain and from another famous bargainer, Gideon?
  2. The Lord’s direct involvement in opening and closing the womb. Do we find such divine involvement harder to believe in our day? Knowing what we know about reproductive processes, what does it mean for us today when a barren woman prays for a child? What does such a prayer “accomplish”?
  3. Evils of polygamy: Scripture gives us no explicit command against polygamy. Indeed some of the great heroes of faith had more than one wife. Abraham, Jacob, and David are perhaps the clearest examples. Here, Hannah’s “rival used to provoke her” (1 Sam 1:5). How could one use this story, along with the stories of Abraham and Jacob to mount a case against polygamy?
  4. Vengeful hymn of thanksgiving. Hannah’s hymn (1 Sam 2:1-10) includes some strong statements against her “enemies,” of whom Peninah would be the most obvious. How should we relate to the those psalms that reveal sentiments in prayer that we probably would not want to emulate in our better moments? Two chapters in C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, address the problem of hateful language in the psalms: Chapter III, “The Cursings” and Chapter VII, “Connivance.” See also Chapter 8, “What kind of prayers would you publish if you were God?” in Alden Thompson, Who’s Afraid of the Old Testament God?It should be noted that the problem of the so-called “imprecatory Psalms” can be approached from quite a different perspective, namely, that of the sovereignty God. In that sense, the Psalms are not approached from the standpoint of devotional literature, but from the standpoint of God’s right to rule in the universe, and to rule righteously. See, for example, Richard Davidson, “Revelation/Inspiration in the Old Testament: A Critique of Alden Thompson’s ‘Incarnational’ Model,” in Frank Holbrook and Leo van Dolson, eds, Issues in Revelation and Inspiration (Berrien Springs: Adventist Theological Society, 1992), 105-135, esp. 130-131.
  5. Raising children. Samuel’s children did not turn out well; Eli’s children did not turn out well. What do we make of all that?

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