"He (Elkanah) had two wives…this man went from his city year by year to worship and sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were the Lord's priests…the sons of Eli were base and worthless; they did not know or regard the Lord."
I Samuel 1: 2, 3, I Samuel 2: 12
"Excuse" - To serve as justification for. To free from obligation or duty. An explanation offered to justify. To seek to remove any accusation for a behavior.
"I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took an excuse."
What type of personal behavior does the word "excuse" bring to my mind?
Have I ever given an excuse for not doing something, just because I didn't want to exert myself to do it?
"To rush into explanations and excuses is always a sign of weakness."
"Most of our platitudes notwithstanding, self-deception remains the most difficult deception. The tricks that work on others, count for nothing, in the very well-lit back alley where one keeps assignations with one self."
Maybe I'm wrong, but at least when I was growing up, my friends and I found the opportunity to help each other come up with inventive "excuses" for everything you can imagine.
From excuses as to "why we didn't do our homework" to "why we were late getting back to class after recess," we had a list a mile long to draw from.
And it seems, childhood isn't the only time in our lives when we come to rely on "excuses" to bail ourselves out of trouble or to get ourselves out of a corner we're pinned into.
If you don't believe me, you have to look no further than Genesis, the very first book of the Bible, to find that the ability of humans to try and use excuses to extricate themselves from trouble began with our parents, Adam and Eve, who made excuses for their disobedient behavior by blaming a serpent first, and later by Adam blaming, "The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me" (Genesis 3: 12). Sadly, the excuses didn't stop with Adam. Cain, his son, offered this heartless excuse to God when asked if he knew where his brother was, "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Genesis 4:9).
And how can we forget Jepthah, who in a fit of anger at himself for making an ill-conceived vow, laid the blame for the consequences on his daughter when he told her, "Thou are one of them that trouble me" (Judges 11:35).
Now you may be wondering, "What in the world do ‘excuses' have to do with the life of Hannah?" And I'll give you my answer, "Everything!"
While Hannah's life, as we have witnessed so far, was one that was colored by emptiness and barrenness, then later by the fullness of the Lord, it is the time and circumstances which surrounded her life that make this story one that is so timely in the lives of every daughter of God in the 21st century! And it helps us to better understand how this woman never let any excuses, even so-called good ones, get in the way of her following her Father and doing His will.
This is a story about the development of a woman's spiritual life, during a time of national apostasy when it would have been easy to employ excuses to defend less spiritual behavior.
I find it interesting that at the very beginning of the book of I Samuel, when Hannah was mentioned and the Bible shared the fact her entire family went to Shiloh annually to worship, that
I Samuel 1: 3 also tells us Hophni and Phinehas, the two evil sons of Eli, were the priests of the Lord. These two reprobates are described as "sons of Belial," which in the Hebrew, is "a title for a worthless person." I don't know what you think, but that in itself would have made a good enough excuse for me not to go to Shiloh. Add to this the harassment Hannah endured at the hands of Peninnah, the second wife, as she journeyed to the temple, and if I'd been Hannah, I might have said, "I have a headache, I'm staying home this year."
But when it came to spirituality - to meeting her God - to praying before her Lord, Hannah made no excuses. No evil in the land could stop her. No criticism could dampen her enthusiasm. No disobedient priests could hinder her obedience. She chose to make a life of spiritual growth her number one priority, no matter what.
How about you and me? I know the excuses I've used. "I'm too busy at my job." "I'm tired." "I don't have time today. I'll make time tomorrow." There's always something or someone around to draw our focus from where it should be. When this happens, the excuses start flying. And then we wonder why we don't like the end result for as author Don Wilder correctly observed, "Excuses are the nails used to build a house of failure."
As we continue our study of Hannah's life and of her commitment to trusting in the faithfulness of her Father, let us never forget that during a time when everybody was doing what was right, "in their own eyes," Hannah chose to keep her earthly vision focused on her heavenly Father. She made no excuses!
"Among the faithless, faithful only (she);
Among innumerable false, unmoved,
unshaken, unseduced, unterrified.
(Her) loyalty (she) kept, (her) love (her) zeal."
"While faith is with me,
I am blest;
It turns my darkest night to day;
But, while I clasp it to my breast,
I often feel it slide away.
What shall I do if all my love,
My hopes, my toil, are cast away?
And if there be no God above
To hear and bless me when I pray?
Oh, Help me, God! For Thou alone
Canst my distracted soul relieve.
Forsake it not: it is Thine own,
Though weak, yet longing to believe."
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
P.S. My book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, is now available wherever books are sold and on the internet at www.amazon.com, Christianbook.com, or by calling toll-free, 1-800-Christian. You can also go to www.whenawomanmeetsjesus.com and purchase the book through Paypal for $10.00.
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