Monday, June 19, 2017

Happy Father's Day

Notice, this is not Happy Man Cave Day...

What makes a man a father in the happy father's day kind of way?  A woman who bears his child, and he takes responsibility to father that child.    It also is a man who knows that a happy wife is a happy life.  So comes another one of my favorite stories in Scripture of a father named, Elkanah. 

"A real man fights on his knees."

He sounds more like a guy who would be on Duck Dynasty.  Elkanah; I always thought that was a manly name, "Hey, Elk, how's it going?"  He would be a big man strutting his rack.  Unfortunately, like the elk, he had a harem of sorts and practiced bigamy, having more than one wife.  He had it rationalized that even though he loved Hannah best, it would be okay to take on another one since his first wife was barren.  They should have observed exhibit A: Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar.  Oh, Elkanah, whose name even rhymes with Hannah, what were you thinking?

Of course, wife #2, made life miserable for wife #1.  Of course, wife #2 knew that wife #1 was more loved, even though barren, and so goes the vicious love triangle.  It would have made for good reality TV viewing.

Elkanah was of the tribe of Levi and spent some of every year visiting the temple.  It was a dark time in Israel's history with a priest like Eli and his two sons who were always on the take in the temple.
In fact, they turned the temple into a bawdy house using women and bullying those bringing offerings to give it to them, until they literally grew fat. They even used the ark of the Covenant as a good luck charm no more respected than a rabbit's foot, (more of that later).  It is interesting that his wife Hannah went with him to the temple and was even allowed to pray there by herself before God.  This brings us to one of the ironies of the story.

When Eli saw her there, he probably thought she was one of the loose women his sons constantly brought into the house of God.  When he saw her lips moving in fervent prayer with no sound coming out, only tears, he assumed she was drunk in her distraught appearance.   As a priest, he was not evidently used to a true worshipper in spirit and in truth.  Rather, Hannah replied,

"No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit.  I have not drunk wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord.  Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of complaint and grief I have spoken until now."

Eli said, "Go in peace and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him."
 I Samuel 1:12-17 

No where in that little conversation did she reveal what her request was, and little did he know that when God answered that prayer, that he himself would hear the pitter patter of little feet in the temple when the dedicated child was brought to him to serve in the temple.  It was to be another chance for Eli as well as an answer to Hannah's barrenness.

Another clue was that Hannah was not taking wine or intoxicating drink, one of the requirements of a Nazarite vow that the angel required of Samson's mother while she was pregnant.  Hannah was a good Jewish girl who knew her history.  In other words, she was plowing the ground for the Lord to put in the seed: 

It is seen in her prayer in I Samuel 1:10-11 "And she was in bitterness of soul and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish.  Then she made a vow and said, 'O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look upon the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head."  This is a Nazarite vow indeed.

So, Elk had a happy father's day that year.  Since Hannah had not promised to bring her son to the temple until he was weaned, I think little Samuel may hold the world's record for the longest nursed child in history.  Anyway, at whatever age he was three or twenty-three (just kidding), Hannah and Elkanah presented their precious child to Eli in the temple.    Even as a boy, God spoke to him there when Eli could no longer hear God's voice.  Listen up, dads: does your child hear God better than you do?

Later, when Eli's two sons decided to take their good luck charm before them into battle, the Ark of the Covenant, the battle was lost, they were slain, and Eli himself fell off the wall (He was rounder than Humpty Dumpty)  and broke his neck.  Even one of his daughter-in-laws gave birth just then and named her son, "Ichabod, the Glory Has Left."  Samuel remained, God's chosen, alone in charge of the temple at probably a young age, and the Ark was taken into captivity for what was to be a very long time.  In the meanwhile, the people clamored for a king rejecting Samuel as a judge and priest wanting a king instead.  They evidently were still mad at Eli and sons.  So first he anointed Saul, then David as the kings of Israel.  Later when David brings the Ark back to Jerusalem, there was an Elkanah who was chosen to help carry it back.  Hmm.  I wonder who that  could be.

Hannah and Elkanah had three sons and two daughters after Samuel, so their quiver was full.  Wife #2 had to resign as chief flaunter of "Naa, naa, na, naa, naa, I have more children than you."  God was good to Hannah and happy, happy, happy Elkanah.  Happy Father's Day, Elk.  You the man!

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