A Certain Man
“There was a certain man of Ramath-aim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham… an Ephrathite…” -1 Samuel 1:1
The two part story of Samuel, the greatest and godliest judge in Israel’s history, will center on the story of David, the greatest and godliest king in Israel’s history. We might expect such a book to begin with a stately story, the narrative equivalent of the red carpet being rolled out before such royalty.
But the Bible is an earthy book, not a lofty book.
And this earthy book is begins with Samuel’s father, Elkenah, a “certain man” who is as normal a man as one could imagine. He has a sincere relationship with God that leads him to faithful yearly participation in worship and sacrifice at Shiloh. And yet he’s also got some significant sin issues. He’s a bigamist who shows favoritism between his two wives with the resultant rivalry between the two women creating a toxic home life.
These unpolished stories are the stories of redemption our condescending God shares.
Compare 1 Samuel to the start of other ancient writings that tell the story of kings, many who claimed to come from the gods. One example is the Sumerian King List tablet which begins, “After the kingship descended from heaven… Alulim became king…” These are the tales of the polished, even inhuman leaders that the civilizations around the Israelites were propagating.
Read again 1 Samuel 1:1 and detect the smile of our God who loves the unpolished. The nearly-nameless and unvarnished Elkenah reminds us that God’s story of redemption is earthy. God begins the story right where we are, in the muck and mess, in the sin and brokenness, in the normal faithfulness and commonplace anxieties of our lives.
You and I are that “certain man,” that “certain woman” and God welcomes us on stage right where we are to begin our story of redemption.