“This man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the LORD, were there.” (1Sam 1:3, KJV)
Elkanah wasn’t perfect. He made mistakes. In fact, he made two mistakes. The first mistake, the big one, was to introduce a second wife into his home. He had his reasons, and his plan even worked – Peninnah did give him children – but the cost was very high, and not one of those children is named or remembered. Not so with God’s answer to Hannah’s prayers. Samuel became a mighty man of God, and five more children were born to Hannah. The blessing of children that Elkanah sought was there, hidden, just waiting for the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous, suffering woman.
The second mistake, the inevitable one, had to do with his clumsy attempt to comfort a weeping, fasting woman. The grace shown by Hannah knew no bounds.
Elkanah was not perfect; but then, who is? And by the way, there was something perfect in Elkanah’s heart: a Person, and His name was The Lord of Hosts. What a majestic, all-powerful name for God! Add to it the law of first mention and it becomes overwhelmingly apparent that Elkanah was captivated by his God. He refused to give up his annual going up to Shiloh to worship HIM and to sacrifice to HIM, despite the presence and practices of the two sons of Eli.
What Elkanah was for his day, many Chilean believers are in this day. And therein lies the blessing. There is not an assembly without issues, although likely none as serious as in the days of Eli. Yet in every assembly there are believers who shine as stars in the night sky, glorifying their creator and redeemer, living above the problems; faithful men manning their stations; faithful women embracing their duties. The curve balls and the sinkers that the evil one throws, from friend and from foe, serve to reveal the real stars in real assembly life. They are stars that shine brightly, showing the flock the way forward, and showing the lost the way to life.
Some 52 mostly small gatherings of the Lord’s people who follow the positive pattern laid out in Scripture dot Chile’s night sky. In the metropolis of Santiago, home to some 6.5 million souls, 10 assemblies that testify to the grace of God are scattered across the city. One can easily spend an hour on public transport to “go up” to be in the presence of the Lord. In the far reaches of northern and southern Chile, assemblies can be 1000 kms. apart, and may function for many months without any visitors to help, yet believers faithfully “go up” to the presence of the Lord of Hosts.
The smallness factor is a stress that adds strain. Most assemblies are small, yet every assembly needs elders, preachers, teachers, and janitors. The luxury of choice found in large gatherings does not exist in most places. They must work with what there is. And if that means that a local brother must preach every Sunday, and teach every week, then that is what happens in a few places. Under those circumstances it can be lonely and a hard go, especially when so few souls are saved.
For this reason, the current unrest in Venezuela has resulted in blessing to Chilean assemblies. An estimated 100 Venezuelan believers have immigrated to Chile over the past year, escaping the chaos of that country and bringing blessing to many assemblies here.
Las Tres Marías
But getting back to the night sky, there is a constellation called Orion, mentioned in the Bible. Orion, it is said, is the figure of a hunter. A distinctive mark of the hunter is his belt of three stars. In Latin culture this is called Las Tres Marías – The Three Marys. Job 38:31 says, “Can you … loose the belt of Orion?” (NKJV). Allow me to finish this brief note on Chile, pointing out three faithful women, Las Tres Marías of Chile’s night sky.
For an average of some 60 years, making 180 years of combined testimony, these three stars have shone brightly and have not been loosed, have not lost their position, and have not lost their brightness. Envy between them has not existed. Each one has fulfilled her distinct role as ordained of God. Many generations of children have been guided by their light. One was married but is now a widow; one never married; and one married late in life but is now a widow. Not one has children of her own, but they all have children. The effectual fervent prayer of these righteous women, their sufferings, and their work with generations of Chilean children, will live on throughout eternity, longer than the stars. Their names need not be mentioned here, but their children know them and will rise up and call them blessed – and so do we.
Don’t give up! Go up!
Don’t give up. Go up. Worship. Sacrifice. And shine where God has placed you. You won’t regret it.
The years flew by at a snail’s pace. Elkanah and Hannah sat, greyheaded, looking back over life. Eli was dead. His sons were dead. Elkanah never regretted the sacrifice of those yearly journeys to Shiloh. He was forever grateful that God helped him see past the hindrances to focus on the Lord of Hosts. Hannah never regretted being alone in her grief and tears. As they witnessed the spiritual blessing their son brought to the nation, they undoubtedly bowed their heads together in worship.