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Spiritually Dull Part 2
© 05.20.19 D. Eric Williams

This article appeared in the May 23 edition of the Cottonwood Chronicle

In the story of Elkanah, Peninnah and Hannah we see that a neglect of God's will brings spiritual dullness. In the case of Elkanah it was manifest in his bumbling approach to the strife in his family and his insensitivity toward Hannah. As the story continues, we find that Hannah soon encounters another spiritually dull man.

Some time following the episode in last week"s article, Hannah went to the tabernacle in Shiloh to pray after a sacrificial meal. Her place of prayer would have been somewhere outside the sanctuary and in view of the high priest Eli who was seated on a "throne" at the entrance of the tent. In her distress, Hannah's prayer was delivered in an unusual fashion. In that culture it was typical to always pray out loud. Thus, when Eli saw Hannah praying silently he jumped to a particular conclusion; the woman is drunk. Now, this should alert us to the strong possibility that drunkenness was common at that time among the Israelites who came to the annual feasts. Eli took umbrage at Hannah"s apparent drunkenness and scolded her; "'Must you come here drunk?' he demanded. 'Throw away your wine!'" (1 Samuel 1:14). Of course, Hannah was not drunk and so she explained what was going on. She was a woman in distress, pouring out her heart to Yahweh. She was not a wicked woman but someone who offered her prayer "out of great anguish and sorrow" (1 Samuel 1:15-16). Upon receiving Hannah"s explanation, Eli replied, "In that case ...go in peace! The God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him" (1 Samuel 1:17).

Like Elkanah, Eli disregarded the will of God and as a result he was spiritually dull. Indeed, the sin of Eli was much more grievous than that of Elkanah; he elevated his sons above Yahweh as objects of worship. For this is essentially what he was doing in honoring his sons more than God (1 Samuel 2:29). Eli's spiritual dullness was manifest in a lack of discernment, revealed in the way he dealt with sinful behavior in others He was soft-spoken and weak when dealing with the serious sin of his sons (1 Samuel 2:24-25), but gruff and authoritative when offering correction for the supposed sins of Hannah. Eli should have discharged his sons from their priestly duties and encouraged Hannah in her distress. In short, he was soft when he should have been rough and rough when he should have been soft.

Once again we find instruction for our walk with Jesus in the early pages of 1 Samuel. Perhaps you have seen something like this played out in your own life. You may have offered a weak response to some serious sin taking place within your sphere of influence. Perhaps it was a situation where your confidence faltered and you did not stand boldly for the cause of Christ. Then, knowing you had wavered in the face of aggressive wickedness, you compensated by bringing the hammer down on the sinful behavior of someone less threatening. The meek acquiescence of the latter person mollified your guilty conscience over your failure in the first situation. This is a scenario that plays out in the life of a person suffering from spiritual dullness. One who is spiritually lively, transformed through the renewing of their mind by the Word and the Spirit will address each situation appropriately. They will be rough when they should be rough and soft when they should be soft.

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