Listening In for God’s Larger Story
Larry Crabb’s cherished gifts were words, in the form of poems, letters, cards, books, and even emails. In the past few months, I ran across a stray 51st anniversary card I had written to Larry. I say “stray” because, for over sixty years, I have saved boxes of all the correspondence between Larry and me. That card was well-timed and is the basis for this Larger Story website article I was asked to write as we focus this month on Listen In, a book written by Sonya, Diana, me.
In that card, I told him how I so appreciated his creative thinking of Scripture and that he could take my thoughts from notes I had agonized over for days and make a sensible outline for me in a short time frame. One of the many outlines he had made sense of was one I was doing for a Mother’s Day sermon on Hannah and how that was all related to the Larger Story.
You might have heard Larry or me talk about Hannah in the past.
1 Samuel 1:1-6 tells us that Elkannah had 2 wives – Peninnah (let’s call her “Penny”), who had children, and Hannah, who had no children. They all went together to worship and sacrifice to the Lord at Shiloh. It also says that Hannah’s rival, Penny, provoked her to tears.
In my mind, I picture the scene: Penny handing the diaper bag to Hannah to help out. Talk about provoking a barren woman!
Upon arrival in Shiloh, Elkannah gave a portion of the sacrifice to Penny and all her children, but to Hannah, whom he loved, he gave a double portion. Then, in verse 8, we see Elkannah trying to fix the agony in Hannah’s heart. He asked: “Why do you weep? Am I not better than ten sons?”
In my mind, I see Hannah thinking about Elkannah’s words, and I hear her saying, “Why is he trying to ‘fix’ me? He’s missing me completely; he doesn’t ‘Listen In.’”
Hmm, how often do I not Listen In? Do I give a pat answer and try to ‘fix’ the situation by telling someone it’s going to be all right? Maybe it’s not going to be all right. We say we have vision that Christ be formed in them [Galatians 4:19], write a vision letter, and say things that they might do to make our life easier, but really the only vision we have is for them to get “fixed.”
Hannah, in deep anguish, downhearted, and weeping bitterly, went to the temple in order to pray. High Priest Eli was sitting at the door. What a courageous woman she was to pour out her heart to God silently, even with Eli thinking she was drunk! In 1 Samuel 1:11, it says she was making a vow before God, and she knew the Word from Numbers 30:12-13 that says a husband could disavow the vow of a wife if it is said aloud and the husband heard it. After all, she couldn’t trust Elkannah because of the question he asked in verse 8, “Am I not better than 10 sons?” So Hannah’s prayer was offered just between her and God.
As we look deeper into chapter 1:21-22, we see that God answered her prayer. Hannah had a son she named Samuel (which means “I have asked of the Lord”), and she and Samuel did not go with Elkannah and the family yearly to Shiloh to sacrifice and worship to the Lord until she weaned Samuel at age three. Then she went with the group to fulfill her vow and lend Samuel to the Lord, leaving him to be reared by Eli, the priest. (1 Samuel 1:28)
In 1 Samuel 2:1-21, we are told that Hannah rejoiced when she handed Samuel to the Lord in the house of Eli.
What? She sang a canticle at a point in her life where she was giving Samuel away?! I’m a little songbird when things are good, but giving up a child, good? Remember Eli’s evil sons, Hopni and Phineas, resided with Eli too. Scripture doesn’t mention that she sang when he said his first Hebrew word, rolled over, smiled, took his first step, but I’m sure she did.
Hannah seemed to have a glimpse of the Larger Story being told, and she could sing when she put first things first. We too can get a renewed glimpse of the Larger Story remembering, as Larry liked to emphasize:
- God the Father is the producer and director of the Larger Story being told.
- God the Son, Jesus, is the star.
- God the Holy Spirit is in us as we play out our small part – shining the spotlight on Jesus by acting in such a way to make God look good so we can be asked about the hope that’s within us.
It’s always great when the Spirit in me meets the Spirit in you. Play your part well, “Listen In,” be curious, have conversations that matter, get and give a glimpse of the Larger Story being told all around us. Love one another, and give words of life. One day it will be too late…I know for a fact!
“Death and Life are in the power of the tongue.” Proverbs 18:21 May we offer life in the words we speak and in the listening that we do!
By Rachael Crabb