By Horatius Bonar
1 Samuel 1:12-18
HERE we have an earthly high priest dealing with a child of sorrow; and in his treatment of her we find both a contrast and a comparison with the heavenly High Priest. The contrast comes out strikingly. Eli shews, first, want of knowledge; for he speaks under a mistake,--in ignorance of the person and the condition of her whom he addressed. Secondly, want of charity; for he charges her at once with drunkenness. Third, want of patience and caution; for he does not wait to inquire. Fourthly, want of tenderness; for he speaks harshly as well as rashly. How great the contrast in all these respects between the earthly and the heavenly High Priest. Contrast this scene with that of the woman of Sychar, or the woman taken in adultery. What a contrast between Eli and the Lord! How differently does Jesus deal with a sinner from the way in which Eli does! The way in which Eli acts makes it necessary for the woman to defend herself; the way in which Jesus acts creates no such necessity; for they to whom He speaks feel that their unworthiness is no bar to His grace, and that the admission of their unworthiness does not alter that grace in the least. The words and acts of Jesus do not set them upon self-defence, as did Eli's. How great the difference between this holy man of Israel and Him who is "The Holy One of Israel!"
But there is comparison or likeness as well as contrast. Eli, though imperfectly, does represent the better High Priest; even him who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, who can have compassion on the ignorant, who is a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, and who ever liveth to make intercession for us. This will come out as we consider (1.) the application to the high priest; (2.) the answer; (3.) the confidence; (4.) the consolation.
I. The application. Hannah deals directly with Eli. She is in Jehovah's tabernacle; she has access to its altar; she speaks to the high priest face to face. Two special requests she makes, (1.) count me not a daughter of Belial,--treat me not as a sinner; (2.) let me find grace in thy sight. These are our two special petitions in our dealings with the better High Priest: deal not with me as a sinner, let me find favour with thee. Forgiveness and favour, these are what we need, and they are what we come to the Priest for; for he is the High Priest of the good things to come. Let us deal with him directly. Let us put our whole case into His hands. We apply to Him as the Son of God, as the Priest, the God-man who sits on the throne of grace. He waits for us; let us wait on Him. He is our Eli, our Aaron, our Melchisedec; all fullness is with Him. He sets open that fullness to us. Though sinners, let us remember we have to do with one who can Manage the worst case and can undertake for the chief of sinners.
II. The answer. His answer is, Go in peace,--may the God of Israel grant thy petition. He speaks peace to her. She was sorely troubled and tempest-tossed; she needed peace, and it is with peace that he begins. So is it with peace that our Eli begins; he has made peace, and he speaks to us the peace which he has made,--"Go in peace," He says to every one who comes to Him, for "him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." This answer is sure to every one who comes to Him. He does not stand on ceremony with His petitioners. He gives what is asked; He sends none empty away. Let us believe that we have what we ask of Him. And then, as if speaking to us of the Father, he says, "Jehovah hear thee, and grant thy petitions." We do not hear His voice; but just as surely as Eli speaks to Hannah and grants her prayer, so does He speak to us and does for us exceeding abundantly above all we ask. Every one who goes to our High Priest is quite sure of an answer, and that a gracious one. He sends none away unsatisfied. Peace and favour from the God of Israel, these are the things He gives. Hannah went to Eli uninvited, but we go invited; it is our heavenly Priest who says, Come unto me!
III. The confidence. Hannah went her way. She did not trouble, nor vex, nor affront Eli with a second or a third application. She took him at his word, like the nobleman who came to Jesus about his son. It is thus that we are to deal with our Eli. Take Him at His word. Trust Him. Do justice to His faithfulness and honesty. Let us not stand on ceremony, or approach in terror and doubt; but believe that He is the rewarder of all that seek Him. Nor let us deceive ourselves and mock Him by saying, I don't distrust Him, I only distrust myself. This is absurd. You are really distrusting Him, and doing so on the ground that you are not fully complying with His conditions (as if He made any conditions!); whereas He bids you trust Him just as you are. If your faith is not good enough, come with it as it is. If your way of coming be imperfect, add that to the number of your sins, and still trust. Let nothing in yourself produce distrust, so long as it is true that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. "They trusted and were not put to shame" is a truth for us now.
IV. The Consolation. She not only went her way; but she did eat, and her countenance was no more sad (literally, no more what it was). Deep had been her sorrow; now it passed away, at the gracious voice of the High Priest. Thus we learn what it is that relieves a disquieted soul. It is the voice of the High Priest, "Go in peace." We have an High Priest with whom to communicate in our troubles, a greater than Aaron or Eli; and we know, even more surely than Hannah when she heard Eli's voice, that His words to every soul that comes to Him are, "Go in peace." He is not "punctilious," nor does he wait to scrutinize the quality or excellence of our manner of approach. The moment that our words, "God be merciful to me," come up to Him, His answer comes down. "Go in peace." Let us be sure of this; let us give credit to His promises, even though we do not actually see His wee, or hear His voice. Our application must be successful. He cannot deny Himself. He cannot dishonour His priesthood nor break His promises. Not more certain ought we to be that we have asked than that He answers. How long are we to wait before believing Him? How many signs are we to ask before we are sure that He will do as He has said? Why will we persist in doubts, which all take for granted that He is not true to His word, and which disguise their wickedness under the name of humility, and under the pretence that as we do not know whether we have asked aright, we cannot know whether he will answer till he has answered. Let us beware of the Pharisaism that is always asking for a sign before it will trust the Son of God.