21 The man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice and to pay his vow. 22 But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, so that he may appear in the presence of the Lord and dwell there forever.” 23 Elkanah her husband said to her, “Do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him; only, may the Lord establish his word.” So the woman remained and nursed her son until she weaned him.
(1 Samuel 1:21-23)
After Samuel was born Elkanah and all his house (family) continued to go up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice and pay his vow. Elkanah and his family were very devoted to God, as we’ve already seen. Year after year they went to the location of the tabernacle as God commanded [Exodus 34:23; Deuteronomy 16:16].
However, once Samuel was born Hannah did not go up. Her plan was to bring him as soon as he was weaned. This would mean that Samuel would be between two and three years old by the time he made his first trip to the tabernacle. At that time he would be left there to dwell there forever.
It seems likely that Hannah did not want Samuel to get used to going to Shiloh every year and returning back home with the family as that would have made his “final” trip much harder on him (and her) – having to be left behind while the family came back home. As we’ve already seen, Hannah was a very smart woman who carefully thought out the things she did and said and this is another example of her wisdom.
Notice that Elkanah, as head of the household, did not have a problem with this, telling her to do what seems best to you. Many Bible critics claim that the Bible subjugates wives to their husbands and gives husbands carte blanche to abuse their wives and make demands on them. Of course that is not true, and here we see a perfect example of a story that undeniably refutes such a lie. Nowhere in the Bible do we ever see a women depicted as inferior to her husband or any man.
Women were not required to make the annual trip to Shiloh to offer sacrifices; only males were required to do so [Exodus 34:23; Deuteronomy 16:16]. The fact that Hannah voluntarily made these trips up until Samuel’s birth demonstrates her devotion to God. She didn’t have to go, but she did. Elkanah, if he were the proverbial tyrannical Bible-husband critics want to claim exists, would have forced her to go on this trip as well. But he didn’t. He respected her decision.
The only requirement he placed on the situation was that the Lord’s word be established. In other words, as long as God’s word was not being violated, Elkanah was fine with the decisions Hannah (and others in his family) made.
This is exactly how godly leaders should behave. God appoints all leaders on earth [Romans 13:1]. But He does not appoint leaders to be tyrants. This includes husbands, who are the leaders of their families, as well as government and business leaders. Leaders should allow people to use their own judgement and should only prohibit someone’s behavior if it violates one of God’s commands.
It is the responsibility of leaders, therefore, to know and understand God’s word and to evaluate decisions and the actions of those they lead (as well as their own) in light of God’s word. When actions do not align with God’s word corrective action (and possibly punitive action) must be taken. Otherwise, people are free to make their own choices.
This is exactly how God governs over us. God is not going to hold us accountable for what car we drive or what color we paint our living room. Those, and countless other, choices are left up to us.
But we will be held accountable for the things God specifically tells us to do or not do. We’ll have to answer for the lies we told, the selfishness we displayed, and/or the babies we aborted.
Within God’s leadership plan there is great freedom. God is not a micromanager. Nor does He want His appointed leaders to be so either.
Leaders should be concerned with God being glorified in all that their organizations do.
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