As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk. So Eli said to her, “How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.” But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.” Then Eli answered, “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.” And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your sight.” Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer. 1 Samuel 1:12-18 (NRSV)
When I read the opening story of Samuel’s life, Eli strikes me as Secret Agent Maxwell Smart. Don Adams played the inept spy on the TV comedy series “Get Smart”. He was a satirical combination of James Bond and Inspector Clouseau.
Smart was an American spy trying to thwart all the evil efforts of the world-takeover organization “KAOS”. The bumbling Maxwell Smart, known as “Agent 86” would always save the day, but he hardly had a clue how he did it.
Eli was priest at the temple, but he had some severe blind spots. Hannah was crying out at the temple altar to God because she had no children and desperately wanted a son; Eli thought she was drunk. Talk about a preacher in need of some sensitivity training!
I empathize with Eli, I’ve made my share of hasty misjudgments; I daresay Eli and I have company there, lots of company!
But even when Hannah protests to the priest that she is not drunk, merely in prayer over her deep soul-distress, Eli still rushes to judgment, this time in the opposite direction – offering a may God grant your petition. She never told Eli exactly what she was praying for; she could have been praying for a new Cadillac, or a way to assassinate the king.
Rushing to judgment without a clue, can be damaging in so many ways. Who among us hasn’t offended a friend or co-worker by speaking before we have all the facts? Parents can speak too quickly when a child brings home a poor test grade. Marriage can be a shouting match when a spouse assumes before knowing. Remember the old saying, looks can be deceiving?
In Eli’s case he judged Hannah’s spiritual condition with a glance, that she was desecrating God’s Temple with drunkenness. He hadn’t so much as taken a stab at understanding. Then, without knowing what he was supporting, he threw his prayer in with Hannah. What a careless way to handle his spiritual calling and vocation.
Today there are plenty of opportunities to make rash judgments, and literally throw away our opportunities to be of real service to God.
The conclusion of the matter is fairly simple – spend time with God silently so you don’t offend God publicly!
For You, Today…
Like the old hymn has it – take time to be holy. When you give God plenty of time to speak to your heart and mind, the chances are you will not be a Maxwell Smart kind of Christian, without a clue.