What a wonderful and inspiring reading we have just heard. What a terrific conclusion to a great drama. I trust you all know the story, and I beg your indulgence for repeating it very briefly. Here was this woman, Hannah, incapable of childbearing -- and she was put down by her rival for something that was not of her doing at all. Finally, with faith in God and with His active support, no doubt aided by the support and encouragement of her loving husband, she overcame her barren-ness, and gave birth to the child she had always craved. She came to God’s tabernacle to give thanks for her deliverance, and she said, "My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory." [I Sam. 2:1] Now, you all know that it is not always so! There are all too many women who give birth in bitter dispute with God and with their men. Some see the fruit of their womb as a curse — or worse, a punishment. They travail in anger and pain, and they birth in anguish and sorrow. They fear for their future, and that of their offspring. If only they, like Hannah, would realize that "There is no Holy One like the Lord, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God." [I Sam. 2:2] Hannah knew that all her attributes, her beauty and her wisdom, her pleasant ways that had endeared her to her husband Elkanah were from God, that she was merely clay in the hands of the Potter, and that it was to His will that she was fashioned. She allowed His will to flow through her, and her life was fulfilled. He heard her prayer, and He answered it. Certainly the years of suffering that she had endured were not forgotten — but she chose to look to the future with anticipated joy, rather than looking back in anger and in judgement.

Of course, not all are blessed as Hannah was. Most people live their lives, from cradle to coffin, seemingly at least, away from God’s watchful eyes. We gamble on what steps to take, we try our hand at this or that profession -- making our choice for different reasons, political or economic, familial or cultural, we succeed or we fail. When we are up we celebrate, and when we are down we cry out, "Eli, eli, lama azavtani -- Lord my God, why have you forsaken me?" [I Sam 2:2] We ask, "God, why is this happening to me?" Hannah tells us, "talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed." [I Sam 2:3] God created a world that was established in equilibrium, n total balance, with every action having an equal and opposite reaction. For every pull there is a push; for every sunrise a sunset, and every great wave that assaults the shore will in short order retreat into the bosom of the ocean. Still, we doubt. Still we look around us and ask, "why do the wicked prosper?"

Hannah was not naive, nor did she wear blinders on her eyes when she said, "the bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn." [I Sam 2:4,5] She knew that God’s plan sometimes takes a while to come to fruition. She hasd. suffered too long in her predicament to believe that everything, all the time, goes well. However, she saw the recompense of the just, as she rejoiced in the gift of motherhood — rejoiced more, perhaps, because it was late and not easy to come by. It is simple, even taken for granted, when we have no obstacles in our way — but when it gets less simple, when impediments dog us time and again, when we stumble and fall on our path to success — it is then that the goal becomes more meaningful, the accomplishment is sweeter, the success becomes more profound.

What can be a better example of God’s great benevolence than the life of our recent presidential candidates. Both Bob Dole and Bill Clinton came to the exalted position at the top of the national party of their choice from very humble beginnings. Both struggled for their very survival in their early years. Each followed a different path. Dole served his country in the second world war, sustained severe wounds which he had to overcome, and achieved great prominence in an honorable career in politics. Bill Clinton overcame the death of a father and the poverty that had kept so many of his fellow Arkansasians backward and lacking in education. By the blessing of talent and wisdom given him by God he earned a scholarship to Yale law school, and a Rhodes scholarship to travel to England and broaden his horizons even further. He chose to follow the road less traveled, for an ambitious young lawyer who planned to enter public life — he did not serve in the military in the Viet-Nam war. He returned to Arkansas and began a political career that brought him first the governorship of his state and later the presidency of the United States. Yet he has not forgotten his faith, and he has not allowed his success to blind his eyes to the wisdom of Hannah when she said, "the Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor." [I Sam 2:7]

We are taught in Psalms 111:10, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever." Surely, surely, this is not so, say the doubters and the deniers. And yet — look around you and see the recompense of those who had do reverence for Him. Mighty empires that stood at the peak of power and glory. Greece, Rome, Byzantium, Spain, Portugal, Britain, and most recently that evil empire — the Soviet Union. All of them failed to recognize what Hannah knew of old, "For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and on them he has set the world. He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness; for not by might does one prevail. The Lord! His adversaries shall be shattered; the Most High will thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed." [I Sam. 22:8-10] So it has been in the days of Alkanah and his beloved Hannah, so it was in the days of the sweet singer of Israel, King David of blessed memory, who stated, "The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof; the world and they that dwell in it; for he has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the rivers." [Psalms 24:1] So it has been from generation to generation — and so it is today. So we are indeed blessed in coming together to give thanks unto Him who created all by his word, who blessed the families of mankind by the wisdom of our father Abraham, whom He set upon the mission to be His messenger, to proclaim His name and to make His fame known to all, thus being a blessing unto all.

Nov. 1996


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