by Al Maxey

Issue #271 ------- October 23, 2006
You don't have to deserve your
mother's love. You have to deserve
your father's. He's more particular.

Robert Frost {1874-1963}

My Friend Hannah
A Ladies' Day Presentation
by Mary Maxey

I hope my readers will indulge me, as I am very proud of my parents. They are both precious, and I love them dearly. They also happen to be some of the most devoted disciples of Christ I know. Although a retired high school English teacher, principal, and finally a school superintendent, I never knew a time when my dad wasn't teaching and preaching the gospel to others. He has also served for many decades, and is still serving, as an elder in the church in Cortez, Colorado. My mom is a retired school teacher, but also has spent numerous years teaching children's Bible classes and ladies' classes. They are both excellent teachers, speakers and writers. A couple of years ago my mom was asked to be one of the speakers at a ladies day in Colorado. The following is a transcription of her talk to those ladies gathered. With her kind permission, I am sharing it with you in this special issue of my Reflections. I pray it will touch your hearts as it did mine! As for the picture to the right, it is of my mom when she was a senior in high school (taken just before her 17th birthday). If you think she looks sad, she was! Her father, Ralph Zook, had just recently died. Yet, this is my favorite picture of her. It's easy to see why my dad fell in love with this young German girl. And I can assure you, she's just as beautiful today, inside and out, as she was then! --- Al Maxey


Thank you for inviting me to be a part of this occasion! When asked to choose a Bible woman I felt had been a role model or inspiration to me personally, I immediately knew which one I would choose -- my friend Hannah. She's a lady I have felt very close to for over 50 years. Her real life story is told in 1 Samuel 1-2. I'm sure you are familiar with it, so we'll not read all of it now, but rather refer to parts of it as we go along (and I'll be reading from the NIV).

I suppose all young women have great dreams for the family they will have when they marry, what their home and family life will be, where they will live, and all the things we dream of when we're first starting our married life. I did ... I'm sure you have ... and I feel just as sure Hannah did. Hannah and I also shared a similar problem: we wanted a child and had been unable to have one. Hannah had not been able to conceive a child; I had not been able to sustain a pregnancy beyond three months, and was given very little hope that I ever would. Things weren't happening as either of us had planned. I know that some of you have also been down this road, because you have shared your stories with me. What do you do when your plans and God's plans for you are on a collision course? Actually, you can do quite a number of things! Hannah and I did most of these, and, as a result, we were about to have quite a learning experience!

Hannah lived in a society I wouldn't fit into well. Because she had been unable to have a child, her husband had taken a second wife, who had borne him children. This was permitted by God to keep the family's inheritance intact, but was not His plan for marriage when He created Adam and Eve and placed them in the garden of Eden. We are told, "Because the Lord had closed her womb, her rival (the second wife) kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year" [1 Sam. 1:6-7]. A word study here shows that "provoke" means "vexed unto anger or rage." The word "irritated" in this verse doesn't mean to get annoyed, but means "to thunder at." This was not a quiet, happy household, to say the least. I didn't have this problem, thankfully. Nobody made my life miserable by taunting me. I didn't need that ... I did a good enough job of making myself miserable without any help. First, I couldn't believe that God would do this to me. It was Not Fair!! "What do You mean I can't have a child?! Weren't you listening, Lord?! I had all of this planned." Then I started telling myself there must be something dreadful that I had done, and this was my punishment. All my friends were having children ... I must be unworthy ... etc. All such thoughts just added to my misery.

Fortunately, Hannah and I both had husbands who constantly showed us and told us they loved us; they were gentle with us in our misery and did their best to console us. Look at Elkanah's attitude -- "Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don't you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don't I mean more to you than ten sons?" [1 Sam. 1:8]. Contrast this with Rachael storming at Jacob, "Give me children or I die!" ... and his harsh response, "Am I in the place of God who has kept you from having children?" [Gen. 30:1-2]. My husband assured me repeatedly that he loved me; that he had married me because of the person I am. If we had a family born to us, that would be fine, but if we didn't, it had no bearing on his love for me; we would still have each other, and we could always adopt children. About this time I was reading a book in which the main character finds her life so unfulfilling she sees no point in making any effort to go on -- "What's the use, nothing goes right, I'm not good for anything," until a friend says to her, "So who sold you into bondage to all this guilt and bitterness, or did you just up and volunteer for it?!" Sometime around this point I began to wonder if I hadn't volunteered for a lot of my misery. I read Hannah's story once again to see how she handled her problem.

Whether Elkanah's answer had been meant as a gentle rebuke or as comfort, it got Hannah's attention and she did something about it. It would appear that on consideration of what he'd said, she changed her attitude. We're told that one year when the family had gone to the tabernacle to worship, possibly right after her husband had talked with her, that, after eating, she went to the door of the tabernacle to pray, crying as she prayed, so intense was her request to the Lord. Some of you cry gracefully. I've sung at funerals with you. You cry 'till tears drip off your chin, never missing a note and looking serene the whole time. I can't. I don't know about Hannah. 1 Sam. 1:10, 13 says, "In bitterness of soul, Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord. ... Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard."

Eli, the priest, was sitting by the door of the tabernacle of the Lord at Shiloh, and if Hannah looked like I do after I cry, Eli saw a red nose, puffy eyes and a splotchy face. None of this mattered to Hannah; she was totally intent upon pouring out her heart to the Lord in her request for a son. She made a vow: "O, Lord Almighty, if You will only look upon Your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget Your servant, but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head" [1 Sam. 1:11].

I wonder why it is that at some of life's darkest moments, when we're struggling just to keep going, or in some of life's brightest times, when we'd like to shout our joy to the whole world; or in times when we're trying to encourage someone else who is struggling as we ourselves have, or maybe we're just trying to preserve our sanity in a world that seems to have gone mad, that there has to be someone who steps in and cuts us to pieces with criticism, even if they don't have a clue about what the truth of the situation is?!! Such a person was Eli. He put the worst possible interpretation on what he assumed to be the case. "How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine!" [1 Sam. 1:14]. Hannah's answer shows she'd learned another of God's lessons for her (a lesson also for the rest of us). Instead of storming at him as she might have done in the past to her husband's younger wife, she answered him with the respect due his office as a priest of the Lord, not necessarily with respect for Eli the man. "Not so, my lord. I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief" [1 Sam. 1:15-16]. Eli's reply was probably as near an apology as he could give: "Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of Him" [1 Sam. 1:17].

Hannah went away with her mind at peace and her heart and soul ready to accept whatever God's decision would be. I decided if Hannah could do that, so could I. We had learned the first lesson in this learning experience -- as a line from an old song says, "Take it to the Lord in prayer." And then the second part of the lesson is: Leave it there!

Hannah had made a vow that prospective mothers of our times can't make, literally --- the giving of a child to grow up away from home in the service of God. However, we can pray that we may be able to raise the child that God gives us in such a way that will bring honor to Him. When we lived in Nicaragua we saw a custom among the members of the church we attended that might have been called a "dedication." I've not seen this anywhere else, but some of you who have attended church in other countries and places may have. On the first Lord's Day a mother came to church after the birth of a child, the parents would take the baby before the congregation, tell everyone the baby's name, and state that they wanted to raise this child to be a Christian, and that they were asking for the help, advice and prayers of the congregation. Following this, someone would lead a special prayer for the parents and the child, and also for any other children in the family. I found this very touching.

We are told in 1 Sam. 1:20, "So in the course of time, Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son." So did I. Both of us were continuing to learn the lessons that God had in store for us, and this lesson was called "waiting." I have favorite scriptures illustrating these "lessons," and I'm sure you do too, so I'll let you supply your own. Not only did Hannah now have a child, but in the years that followed she had three more sons and two daughters. I had one more child ... a daughter. She knows that I prayed fervently that I would have a daughter, and I'm sure Hannah prayed just as fervently during each pregnancy for the child she was carrying, and gave thanks when each one was born ... just as I did. I also want to thank my daughter at this time for being my encourager and moral support while I was preparing this presentation.

Hannah asked that she be allowed to remain at home to care for Samuel until he was weaned, instead of going with her husband to Shiloh each year. This was granted. This does not in any way indicate that Hannah was neglecting her spiritual duty. Only the men and older boys were required to attend the three special occasions of worship at the tabernacle, and then later at the temple. It seems to be implied that Hannah's earlier attendance may have been due to her feeling that she was nearer the presence of God there and her prayers would be more readily heard and answered. We know our prayers are heard and answered wherever we are and whenever we pray, and busy young mothers find themselves praying in all sorts of situations.

Hannah had six children to care for. I don't know what childhood diseases they had back then; medical science has done away with a lot of illnesses people of even my generation had to cope with, but I'm sure Hannah had her share of taking care of kids with sore throats, runny noses, ear aches and the usual cuts and scrapes that go with raising children in any period in history. We don't read about these in Hannah's story, but I doubt if she was exempt from them. I wasn't, and most of you haven't been. I want to thank ----- for letting me share one of her personal stories. On one occasion all three of her kids had been sick. I called to see how they were getting along, and she said, "Oh, it's been a rough week, but we're doing better. It just takes a lot of prayer and Lysol." Yep! I've been there, and so have most of you. I can well imagine Hannah had too, and she handled it with prayer and whatever her equivalent of Lysol was. I'm sure every mother here has her own stories of "over the shoulder prayers" (as one author called such talks with the Lord).

When I get to heaven, I want to talk with Hannah about how she raised Samuel and his brothers and sisters. I've heard some wonder if Samuel being a Nazarite caused problems with his siblings. I rather doubt it. It was a common custom of the time, and the practice was in place in the family when the other children were born. I rather think raising their family probably wasn't all that different from the way we were raised, and in turn raised or are raising our children. Hannah's story took place over 1100 years before Christ's birth. Calendars and cultures change, but basic principles don't vary all that much!! One of those principles is: "Never underestimate the influence of a good mother!" This is in no way overlooking the influence of good fathers, but we all know (don't we?!) that in the early years mothers are the ones on 24 hours call. Taking care of a newborn baby was really a learning experience for me. I'm an only child; I had never baby-sat smaller children in my younger years; so my poor son was the first baby I ever bathed or changed a diaper for. Amazingly, we both survived!!

I sometimes wonder if Hannah didn't have it easier than mothers of our times do. I see you bringing your small children to worship so faithfully from a very early age (some of you even on the same day they were born); you come out in all kinds of weather, tired after a full day of work, whether at home or at a job away from home. You make sure these little ones see in you the proper priorities in life. It's not easy. I've done it too. Kids aren't always perfect in their behavior during worship, as every mother in this group knows. Just hang in there; nothing your child has done or ever will do can possibly out-do some of the embarrassing moments our son put us through!! If Al, Jr. is remembered at all in the little congregation we attended when he was small, it will be for the number of times he had to be taken out of the service and ... "reasoned with!" And the problems don't end when they get past the "terrible twos" ... or at least mine didn't. They just change! Believe me, though, they will out-grow them. And Oh, it will be worth it!!!

Hannah stayed at home 'till Samuel was "weaned." How long was the "weaning" process? I did some digging in reference books on the life and customs of that culture and time in history. Most references indicate that children were breast fed until about the age of 3 years, but the term "wean" covered much more than just breast feeding. It seems to have included teaching the child basic rules of conduct for family living. It definitely included training in discipline. The book of Proverbs is a rule book for life -- for adults as well as children. Proverbs 20:11 says, "Even a child is known by his actions; by whether his conduct is pure and right." I came across a quote that has stuck with me for years, long after I forgot who the author of it was -- "An undisciplined child is an abomination!" That sounds harsh, but think of some of the children you know who are not taught the lessons of discipline or self-control, and then ask yourself (answering truthfully) if you really enjoy being around them! Children of that time, as well as children in our times, were taught to be useful around the house, to be responsible for specified chores, and to learn to dress themselves. Some of us saw one of our little guys come in the other night with his shoe laces untied, just so he could show people he'd learned how to tie them! I can easily imagine Samuel and his siblings going through all of these various stages.

Samuel was certainly taught about service to others as it relates to service to God. I see you young mothers teaching and encouraging this in your children possibly more than I did when my children were small. Your little boys lead singing, read scripture, and as they get older, they lead prayers, and serve at the Lord's table. When they're small, things may not go smoothly in their public appearances, but don't let that discourage you or them. One of my favorite memories of a little boy leading singing concerns ------. When he was home from college last summer and helped with a Wednesday night devotional, I hugged him and told him I remembered the first time he led singing here. The song book was upside down and the actual page he turned to was not the song he led; he just announced the page number of the song he wanted ... and SANG! He smiled at me and said, "Now I'll tell you the rest of the story! I wasn't even holding a song book; it was my Bible!" None of that mattered, though ... most of us "old folk" find such moments endearing.

I see your daughters learning the skills that will make them a great force for good in the Lord's work in the future. Even when they're very small, I see them helping serve at meals, whether pot luck meals, or for funerals, or other occasions. They are developing the characteristics that will equip them to be of great value in the service of the Lord as they continue to grow and accept more responsibility. Maybe it'd be easier for parents and grandparents to do some of these things ourselves, and maybe our young boys and girls feel ill at ease helping in a public way, but may we always appreciate them and never, ever criticize or make them feel inadequate. There is not an age at which it is too young to start developing this characteristic in our children. It's a foundation on which their entire lives must be built. Remember, Samuel was taken to the tabernacle of the Lord to SERVE, and as we read the account of his life at the tabernacle with Eli, we'll see that Hannah had taught him well.

Samuel and his siblings were taught God's law. As the children of Israel were ending their 40 years of wilderness wanderings, God, through Moses, reminds them again of the importance of keeping all of the law, and the way they were to do it: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates" [Deut. 6:4-9]. This means all the time and in everything you do. Children then and now need to learn early that the closer their relationship is with God, the better their life will be both now and in eternity. I see you young mothers doing it. Your children bring their Bibles to worship, even before they can read; they learn memory verses, the older ones take notes during sermons and learn how to use Bible reference materials. I know it is time consuming, but once again -- you'll look back later, as I do now, and know it was worth the effort.

Hannah taught her children to pray. I don't think I can find any specific reference that says she did, but being the person that she was, and the great importance she attached to prayer, you know she did. We've all taught our children to pray. Maybe we taught them little "rote" prayers like "Now I lay me down to sleep...," and maybe we didn't. Anyway, it seems like a lot of teaching must have gone on before the child was considered "weaned." One reference said it was very likely Samuel would have been about 8-10 years old when he was taken to stay with Eli. Scripture says of Samuel, "and the boy was very young" [1 Sam. 1:24]. Most reference books agree that the word for "boy" was not one that was used for an infant or small child, but "a growing lad." There is another verse that suggests to us a lot about what Hannah had taught Samuel, and may also shed some light on his age. When Hannah took him to Eli, as she had vowed, she made the required sacrifice for one who had made such a vow. At the completion of the sacrifice she takes the child to Eli, reminds him of who she is, and of the vow she had made, and the conditions under which he had last seen her. She says, "So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given to the Lord." And then the verse ends with the sentence whose significance I had more or less overlooked: "And he worshipped the Lord there" [1 Sam. 1:28]. The "he" refers to Samuel. To me, that is a strong indication that the "child" was of an age to know who Jehovah was, and that he had been trained in both law and service.

In the first ten verses of the second chapter of 1 Samuel, we have the prayer Hannah prayed after she had given the child, Samuel, into the care of Eli. This is very different from the prayer she had offered years before when she was asking for a child. This is a prayer full of praise and thanksgiving for all the blessings she had been given, not just for the son she had dedicated to the Lord, but for all her children and the strength the Lord had given her. In a sense, this was as much a song or prayer of victory as were the songs of Miriam, after the Israelites had escaped from the Egyptians [Exodus 15], and of Deborah, after the defeat of Sisera [Judges 5]. Hannah had now fulfilled at least the first part of her vow. But I'm sure she never quit praying for this child, even though he no longer lived in the family home. We never stop praying for our children, do we?!!

Of the rest of his youth we know very little. We are told in 1 Sam. 2:26, "Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men." This is also the description of the boy Jesus. Samuel's living and serving in the tabernacle did not necessarily end all contact between him and his family. It wasn't a "cloistered" situation, and his family lived only some eight miles from Shiloh. In addition to taking him new clothing each year, there were probably other visits to and from his family over the years.

Samuel was the last Judge of Israel, and the person who anointed Saul as the first king of Israel, and also David, his successor. I hope Hannah lived long enough to see her son laboring for the Lord in fulfillment of the vow she had made even before he was conceived. This was her triumph; her victory! It has also been mine! I've lived to see my son preaching the Word of the Lord for over 30 years now, as well as serving as an elder in the congregation where he works.

Hannah and I both learned many lessons during our years of maturing, and I think the bitter ones have only made our victory all the sweeter. David, in many of his psalms, writes of victory. In most of them he usually describes the peace and joy of a nation that has won a battle against its enemies. But haven't Hannah and I won some battles too?! Our victories were over our own immature, head-strong, selfish selves. One verse in a psalm describing the blessings after a victory appeals to me very much -- "Then our sons, in their youth, will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace" [Psalm 144:12]. This can happen ... and will happen ... in God's own time and in God's own way!

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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Utah:

Dear Bro. Al, I just wanted you to know that I look forward to your Reflections arriving in my email every week. As a recovering Pharisee, your articles make me think (and rethink) about the basis of my beliefs. Occasionally, you even shake the foundations, and that is a good thing! Please send me all three volumes of your Reflections on CD. I have enclosed $30. Thank you for the work you do.

From a Reader in Kansas:

Bro. Al, Please find my check for $30 enclosed for the purchase of the 2003, 2004 and 2005 archives of your Reflections on CD. Also, would you please advise me as to when the 2006 Reflections CD may be purchased? Thank you, and please continue your worthwhile teaching efforts.

From a New Reader in New York:

Al, I read your article "The Great Belly Button Debate" in the Sep/Oct, 2006 issue of John Clayton's Does God Exist? I was intrigued by what you had to say and I would like to subscribe to your weekly Reflections. I enjoy discovering what others are saying in defense of Scripture.

From an Elder in Colorado:

Bro. Al, I'm an elder in a small Church of Christ in ---------, Colorado. I have been reading your Reflections for a few years now and really appreciate all you are doing for the Kingdom of God. Keep up the good work, and may God bless you in all ways!

From a Leader at Herald of Truth:

Thanks, Bro. Al, for a much needed study! I have noted that after Leviticus 10 the Bible never mentions Nadab and Abihu by name without mentioning their brothers (Eleazar and Ithamar) as well. I've resolved to try and do the same. I like what Dr. Glenn Pemberton from ACU says -- "The good news from Leviticus 10 is that God looks at our heart. The bad news is: God looks at our heart. Four sons transgressed God's commands; two for the wrong reason, two for the right reason. Their punishment or prosperity followed the motives of their heart."

From a Reader in Arizona:

Amen, Brother Al. That last was one of the best issues of your Reflections I have read in a long time! I've recently studied that same subject (the letter of the Law vs. the spirit of the Law; God desiring mercy/compassion over sacrifice), but was unaware of this example of these principles surrounding Aaron and his sons. My own focus had been more in Jesus' teachings surrounding the Sabbath, from which you did quote the example given by Jesus of David and his companions eating the showbread. Your study added depth to my own. It was a blessing! Thank you so much! I echo your final statement: "Thank you, Father, for being such an awesome God!"

From a Reader in Florida:

Dear Al, I try to read your articles as soon as I can after they are received. They never fail to uplift, enlighten, and encourage me. I also greatly enjoy -- and learn a lot by -- reading the letters from the readers of your Reflections. Your "Eleazar and Ithamar" article was a tremendous blessing. Tears filled my eyes as God's wonderful love and grace were seen from yet another perspective. Thanks for your dedication and service in the Kingdom. God is being glorified, Jesus is being exalted, and people (including me) are being informed and greatly helped.

From a Reader in North Carolina:

Brother Al, I have appreciated, and devoured, your Reflections articles for quite some time now. In fact, as soon as I get each one, before I even read it, I save it to a file called "Al Maxey," just to make sure I can always get back to it for future reference. Thank you for your good work.

From a Doctor in Alabama:

Hey Al, I've heard lots of sermons about Nadab and Abihu in my lifetime, but I don't recall ever hearing a sermon about Eleazar and Ithamar. Isn't it funny how the legalists, who constantly hold up Nadab and Abihu as "proof" that their patternistic hermeneutic is correct, never bother to tell people the rest of the story?! Great article, once again! In fact, all of your recent articles have been great. Keep up the good work.

From a Reader in California:

Bro. Al, I think your Reflections articles have been responsible for many Christians growing by leaps and bounds spiritually. Thank you so much! Our family talks about the things you write, and this has helped us to grow in our faith. I am so thankful to have found your web site, and I have told everyone I can about you. I have also emailed them some of your Reflections articles.

From a Minister in Kentucky:

Bro. Al, You have had some very good articles in your recent Reflections concerning the silence of the Scriptures. Concerning "Eleazar and Ithamar," it seems to me that too many have failed to read (as Paul Harvey says) "the rest of the story." They read the Nadab and Abihu account and see only Law; if they had read "the rest of the story" perhaps they would have seen the Lawgiver. In your article "Shouting Above the Silence" you mention a number of men who had contributed articles to the October issue of The Spiritual Sword, among whom were Alan E. Highers, Ancil Jenkins, David Pharr, and Hugh Fulford. It may be of some interest to you that these four men were at Freed-Hardeman at the same time I was. In fact, David Pharr was my roommate for a while. Isn't it a wry twist that I wound up among the Non-Institutional brethren for a while, but have since studied myself out of all that, while these men (who were considered "liberals" by us "anti" brethren) are still, after all these years, depending on the very same approach to the Scriptures, and the very same arguments, we NI's were making 40 years ago! I finally realized that approach and those arguments actually contributed to the divisions among us! Isn't it tragic that good, honest folks, like these men, wind up on the dead-end track of legalism, struggling against God's purposes of grace, peace, unity and reconciliation, while actually thinking they are furthering those purposes?!

From a Reader in Colorado:

Dear Al, I am writing this from my daughter's home, so don't let the email address confuse you. I put my daughter on to your Reflections several years ago, and she is now a big fan. She has also influenced a number of her acquaintances to begin reading your articles. When I told her I planned to write to you this morning, she asked me to pass along this comment from her -- "From the time we are small children in Bible classes we are taught about Nadab & Abihu, and it is drummed into us how important it is to faithfully keep all the commands of God -- and doing that is good. But wouldn't it also be beneficial, if when they are a little older, our Bible classes also begin teaching them more and more about the grace and mercy of God, as exemplified by the story of Eleazar & Ithamar? We need to give them a broader perspective of God's dealings with mankind than just the strictly legalistic view we usually teach them."

Now, for my own comments! I am an old man of 75 years who is past his prime, but I have spent a lot of time in study of the Word and in contemplation of spiritual matters. For many years I read widely from "brotherhood" periodicals, books and commentaries. And over the years, after teaching an untold number of adult Bible classes and small-group studies, I have drastically changed my views on many things that I grew up believing! I began to be more open and vocal about some of my changing understandings until those "in positions of power" gave me an ultimatum: "shape up or ship out!" A time of personal turmoil and anguish ensued. It was a great help when, through Bro. Edward Fudge's GracEmail ministry, I was pointed toward your then just emerging Reflections ministry. What a huge enjoyment and comfort they both have been -- and continue to be! May God keep blessing you, your wife, and all of your encouragers and supporters!

From a Minister in India:

Dear Bro. Al Maxey, Your Reflections are wonderful, and great lessons for Christians. I thank you very much for these lessons, and read them with great interest. We are encouraged and strengthened here by them, and we print them out to read and study with English and Telugu Bibles. We are also using your lessons in our evangelism and in gospel meetings in other villages. We hope that you, sister Shelly Maxey, and your family are doing well by God's grace. We are continually praying for you here! The brethren here greet you!

From a Reader in Arkansas:

Brother Al, This article on Eleazar and Ithamar was of great interest to me, as well as your earlier Reflections on Nadab and Abihu. Too many of us are simply not schooled enough in the OT. Thank you for delving into this very interesting aspect of the priesthood. As with a great many of us, the sudden and fierce death of Nadab and Abihu had always been a puzzlement to me. Thank you for edifying us as to the true nature of these incidents and the sins of these men. As for Eleazar and Ithamar, even though they did not eat as dictated, they didn't violate the offering by rendering it unholy. They could have thrown it into the trash heap, or given it to another person to eat. But they didn't. Rather than render it unholy, they allowed the fire on the altar to consume it instead. As for Nadab and Abihu, besides their drunken state, their presumption with the fire brought something unholy and detestable to the altar of God. Their younger brothers, on the other hand, did not defile the altar. Keep up the good work, Al.

From a Minister in New Mexico:

Al, One sentence in your "Readers' Reflections" section caught my attention as deserving a comment. It was by the "CofC Leader/Lecturer/Author" who said, "I have been misrepresented, ostracized, and, in fact, blacklisted brotherhood-wide by them [the Spiritual Sword crowd]." While I know what this brother had in mind when he spoke of being blacklisted "brotherhood-wide," I want to point out that "brotherhood-wide" encompasses ALL Christians, not just the relatively small number of siblings in Christ to whom this inaccurate phrase is typically applied [i.e., to the Church of Christ church]. I believe we need to address this seemingly innocuous terminology, since what it is often used to imply reeks of misguided exclusivism and sectarianism. Those of us who have sunk into union with the Body of Christ at large recognize that the term "brotherhood" encompasses ALL our erring siblings who are devoted to our one Savior and Lord. To use the term in such a sectarian manner, as this reader did, is counter-productive. Thanks again, Al, for your service in His kingdom.

From a Minister in Oregon:

Bro. Al, I read through the recent issue of The Spiritual Sword on "the law of silence" (which you reviewed in Reflections articles #269 and #269a). I already knew what they were going to say even before they said it, and, as usual, their scholarship is severely lacking. That whole October issue was more about proof-texting to eliminate instrumental music than it was about genuine silence in the Scriptures. I was also very hurt by some of Alan Highers' words in the recent Christian Chronicle. He, as well as many others, insist that the Christian Church must give up "the instrument" so that we can all have unity. That's a silly and arrogant argument. It is just a subtle way of saying we're right and everyone else is wrong!

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