Circumstantial Evidence


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 heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad. I Samuel 1:12-18 ESV

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it. Psalm 139:1-6 ESV


Sam was in quite a bit of trouble. His mom’s good serving platter was broken, with the pieces all over the floor. There had been fresh-baked cookies on the platter, but now cookie crumbs were all mixed up with the broken china. Sam had been the only person home when it had happened, and the cookies were his favorite kind. When his mom came home and found the mess, she was sure Sam was responsible. The evidence all pointed to Sam, and at first she didn’t believe him when he said he hadn’t done it. Only a little later, when they found out the dog had been in the house, and that he had a cut paw and cookie crumbs on his face, did they realize that actually the dog was responsible for the mess, not Sam!

When a lot of evidence makes it seem as if a person is guilty of something wrong, that’s called circumstantial evidence. Eli the priest used circumstantial evidence to judge that Hannah was drunk in the tabernacle. At that time, not many people worshiped or respected God, and it seemed unusual to Eli that someone would be praying. When he saw Hannah’s mouth move while she quietly thought her prayer, he made the wrong judgment. He scolded her for being drunk. When Hannah told him his mistake, he spoke more kindly to her and assured her that God would answer her prayer.

People sometimes make the wrong judgment about other people, and sometimes it can be hurtful. People can’t see into each other’s hearts, and that’s why they sometimes make mistakes. But God doesn’t make mistakes like that. He knows everything we’re thinking and feeling. God knows our hearts, but that’s not good news for us. He can see our anger and selfishness and greed and wishes to hurt other people. If God judged us for what was in our hearts, we would be in serious trouble. But God saw our need for help, and he sent Jesus to save us. Jesus died on the cross so that all our sins, even the sins in our hearts, could be forgiven. God the Holy Spirit lives in us and always works to change our hearts in ways that please God.


Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us and for sending Jesus to die for us. In His Name, Amen.