You see the person dressed in leather and immediately think that he must be some sort of radical biker that strikes fear into the heart of all people. The man has tattoos on his arms and you immediately figure he is a gang member. Jumping to conclusions, it's easy to do. Ripped jeans, beat up car, suit and tie, sandals instead of shoes, shoes and dark socks with shorts, long hair, short hair, colored hair, bald head, and a variety of other things that immediately lead you to jump to conclusion about a person you have just met or perhaps that you have just seen walking past you at Walmart or McDonald's. You look at them and figure you know all about them. Why? Because you look at them and come to a conclusion about them and their situation.
That happened in my reading this morning. It is something that gets lost in the general reading but for some reason, it struck me this morning. Hannah has gone to Shiloh to pray and ask the Lord to give her a son. She is torn apart by infertility (which is what we call it today, instead of seeing that the Lord is the One who controls conception and not man). She longs for a child. She is tormented by Elkanah's other wife, Peninnah (let's not get into the whole issue of several wives and the problems this has always caused when it took place). Peninnah can have children and she looks down her nose at Hannah because she cannot.
So Hannah is at Shiloh, pouring out her heart to the Lord. She is praying from the depth of her heart. We are told, "As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heart." (1 Samuel 1:12-13 ESV) SO what conclusion does Eli jump to? "How long will you go on being drunk. Put your wine away from you," he says to her. (1 Samuel 1:14 ESV) He immediately figures she is some drunk woman muttering to herself in the midst of a drunken stupor. He looks at her and has it all figured out.
That is us! We do that! I know that I do (though I am not proud of it and try to reign in my sinful nature that leads me to act in that way). You see the person, you figure you know what is going on. But do you? How many times are we wrong? How many times do we make the wrong judgment about a person? How often do we not give a person a chance just because we "know" what type of person he or she is based on what we see? Eli did, and he was the priest at Shiloh. He should have known better but he didn't. He was following his sinful thoughts. He condemns Hannah before he even knows her.
Let's not do that. Let's ask the Lord to help change the way we act. Hannah corrects Eli. She sets him straight on what is going on. Most of the time, we don't have that opportunity to be set straight by the person we have judged. We see him, we judge and we walk on. Instead of jumping to conclusions, if we are really concerned about the person, perhaps we should lift them up in prayer at that moment. Ask the Lord to help the person in whatever situation he or she might be in. Perhaps they are stuck in their circumstance and are looking for a way free. Perhaps they are stuck in sin and are happy in it. Perhaps they just dress or look the way they are and in fact, they are far from what we make them out to be. It doesn't matter. Ask the Lord to be with them, to help them in whatever they are facing. And if they need help, ask the Lord to use someone else to help them. (Got you there, didn't I? That is exactly what we do. We don't want to get involved so we ask the Lord to help a person and then walk away. Perhaps YOU are the one that the Lord wants to reach out to the person to help them. Perhaps.)
And then ask the Lord to forgive you for acting like Eli, for jumping to conclusions without knowing what is going on. Ask Him to help you to change from a critical person to a loving person, from a judgmental person to a helpful person. Eli's life changed following that encounter with Hannah. He learned over the next couple of years that the Lord had a plan for the people of Israel. And it all began with this women he figured was drunk. How wrong he way! Perhaps you and I have been just as wrong.