Fallen People, Faithful God
The Bible is not a story about perfect people. Anybody who has been in this thing called “Christianity” for any length of time knows that to be true. In fact, the Faith Hall of Fame could equally pass as a rogues gallery of the infamous. Just consider the following… Abraham was a notorious liar. Jacob was skilled in the art of deception. Moses was a murderer. David? The man after God’s own heart? He was an adulterer. And on and on and on it goes. But the truly amazing thing was that each of these men shared one common sin, something you find throughout the entire OT narrative. Anyone want to venture a guess? Here’s a hint. Their common failing starts with a “p.” That’s right. All of these great men were polygamists, i.e. they had more than one wife.
Now, I don’t want to get us sidetracked but I feel like a brief explanation is important here. God’s purpose from the very beginning was one man and one woman, husband and wife (singular, not plural). But man in his fallen nature decided that what God declared as a command was really only a “suggestion.” The result was that the cultural norm became the accepted practice, even for those who expressed genuine faith. Godly men embraced the practice of polygamy to such an extent that no one even questioned it anymore. It was so common for the patriarchs to have multiple wives that few of us have even heard it addressed in our Sunday school classes. But just because something is culturally accepted doesn’t make it right. Wrong is wrong. Sin is sin. And God’s word stands timeless and unchanging no matter the cultural norms. Polygamy was a sin in the beginning and it remained a sin throughout the OT discourse.
That brings us to today’s verse from 1 Sam 1:2, a seemingly innocuous statement about a man named Elkanah, “He had two wives:” See, I’m of the opinion that God says what He means and He means what He says. In other words, there’s nothing in the Bible that’s there by accident or coincidence. Every chapter, every sentence, every word has meaning, value, and significance. It might not always be apparently obvious. It might be subject to interpretation at times. But it is there for a reason. So why tell us the man has two wives? What’s the point? Why does it matter as background to the story of Samuel?
For today, I just want to focus on one thought. For me, it’s a powerful reminder of the gracious and faithful nature of our heavenly Father. Confused? That’s fine. Just follow me for a minute. From the very beginning we find out that Elkanah was a fallen man, i.e. a sinner. He wasn’t perfect. He wasn’t righteous and holy. He was just like you and I. He observed the customary religious practices of the day. He made sacrifices to God. He loved and provided for his family. He was a “good” man. But he was also a fallen man. When it came to the matter of sin, he was no different from any of us. He made compromises. He made excuses. He probably rationalized it. “Hey, everyone has two wives these days. It’s nothing important. I’m not hurting anyone. Besides, look at the patriarchs. They did it too and things worked out for them.” I can just imagine the thoughts that went on in his head. But no matter how hard he tried to justify his sin, God saw it, and God took account of it.
And therein lies the reason for my hope and encouragement. In spite of Elkanah’s sin, God still showed up for him and Hannah in a big way. Now, before you fire off an angry email response, hear me out. I’m not trying to make excuses for our sin. We are intended for righteous living. Sin should neither be accepted nor tolerated in the life of a believer. Love God and hate sin is my motto. But none of us are or ever will be perfect. It’s not going to happen this side of eternity. I can only speak for myself, but even after almost 25 years of walking with Christ I still fail… I still fall short… I still sin. Apart from His grace and the work on the Cross I have no hope. My righteous counts for nothing. Never did. And it never will. If my hope of blessing or answered prayer is dependent on my “godliness,” I might as well give up now. It ain’t gonna happen if it depends on me. I am a fallen man. But fortunately I have a faithful God who loves me unconditionally.
From the very beginning God reminds us that the wonder of this story is God’s mercy. Elkanah didn’t deserve a son any more than the nation deserved Samuel. Elkanah was a sinner and the nation was mired in idolatry. Neither deserved anything. But God in His gracious and faithful nature gave them everything. Remember that next time you feel like you’ll never be “good enough” to deserve His blessings. Remember that next time you feel like your failures have forever shut the door on abundant life. We can never merit or earn the goodness and favor of God. He blesses us because He is gracious. He blesses us because He loves us. And He blesses us even though we are undeserving. I don’t know about you, but such grace leaves me speechless and grateful. Grateful that even though I am fallen, yet He still remains faithful to His word.