Sunday, October 03, 2004

A Sermon On Hannah's Prayer

1 Samuel 2:1-10
By Terry L. Pruitt

Introduction:

The temptation for this passage is to read it as an underdog story in which one woman, Hannah, won over her competitor in her own family, Peninnah. That is my temptation at least. Perhaps you don't have the same temptation. These two women were both the wife of Elkanah. Elkanah's favorite wife was Hannah however Peninnah had the advantage because she was able to bearing children. In answer to prayer Hannah also is given a child, Samuel. This child she gives to the LORD as an act of gratitude for his deliverance from her shame. While in our day and age people don't always want children. Some are very content to be childless. We may be puzzled by someone placing all their self worth on this issue of being able to have children. People have many more capabilities than to have children. But the family was the center of life more ways than one in the Old Testament times. The family economic situation was based on the extended family. The extended family provided an economic base for shared resources, provision in old age and a means of organizing for economic activity. The extended family also provided a means of physical security and personal safety. If you remember the story of Abraham when he took 300 trained men to pursued Lot's captures. That is not to say that security and safety situations were not changing over time. But often, the corner stone of security was extended family loyalty and looking out for one another. The extended family was a place that a person's ranking was established. Was a man the first or second son? Was the woman a slave of the head of the family or was she the daughter of the second or third son. Today American society ranks people based on the neighborhood they live within, the school their children go to, and the position they have obtained at work. We still have a ranking system. We care much more about the neighborhood. Is it middle class? Some people really like the whole living down town Baltimore because they feel it is not suburban banality while other feel they have achieved something by leaving the city to live in the suburbs. We will not attempt to decide today which ranking system is right or wrong, just to say it exists. Your ranking and my ranking in society is not tied so much to the extended family. Yet there is a great deal competition and comparison in our society. Children often are overt in their comparisons and rankings. “I bet my Dad can beat up your Dad.” Who as a child was not petrified by the prospect of being the last kid picked when forming a team for gym class or a pick up game of baseball. But as adults, our ranking is much more subtle. We know the chain of authority in the work place. We know who has signature authority. And we could go on and on. While we have much different criteria for society ranking, both in Hannah's day and in our own there is a lot of emphasis on one's personal status in terms of others.

The underdog is someone who does not have the advantage in a competition. The formula for a good sports movie is that a team that is unlikely to win through forming team bonds, overcoming a reputation and disciplined practice, win the big event of the season. This past year before the Olympics the movie “Miracle” chronicled the U.S. hockey team's success at the 1980 Winter Olympics. The Russians were the favored team to win those Winter Olympic Games. If you saw any of the interviews of our U.S. Olympic athletes during the Summer Games in Athens you may have heard them make references to the movie “Miracle” or them repeating the phrase that they play for the United States Of America. Not all stories of competition are stories of the underdog coming out on top but it is a common theme. Again at first glance we might think that this prayer of Hannah's is a response to her own underdog story, but in reality there are some more important happening here. Strictly speaking, Hannah is not the underdog in the sense, she was the favored wife. Peninnah was the wife with children but she did not have the favor her husband. Hannah had this advantage, however, Peninnah vexed her to the point of tears. She is the underdog in terms of number of children, but she was favored by her husband. She Hannah will not only acknowledge that God is the source of her success but she will teach us this morning about how God is in control of every up and down in our life. How God is the only one gives a correct assessment of our value, our works and our hearts. How God ultimately we are dependent upon God for His deliverance from the trials of this life and the next.


I. Rejoicing in God (Verses 1-3)
Exalting In God (Verse 1)


“My heart rejoices in the LORD;
in the LORD my horn is lifted on high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies
for I delight in your deliverance.”


The word here deliverance is the same word as salvation. In fact it is related to the word which would become our saviors name, Jesus. Deliverance is a good translation. I find sometimes when we use the word salvation, we use it to means something a long this lines of being a member of the Christian church, that we personally have spoken the sinners prayer or that we have had an emotional experience during an alter call. But in fact, this deliverance is not any of those. Salvation is that we are in trouble, actual or potential, and God delivers us from that trouble. In many of the stories in the Old Testament, the deliverance is deliverance from the nations that would oppress the children of Israel militarily. Alternatively, it is deliverance from the oppression of Egypt. Or perhaps it is the deliverance from those who would kill them. But in the case here, Hannah is delivered from her shame of being childless. It would be easy to put deliverance of God into that category of deliverance from national disaster, but in this case it is deliverance from personal shame. In the New Testament we see salvation turning to a deliverance from sin, death and the grave. We will talk a little more about that in a bit.

When we recognize God's merciful salvation, whether from temporal or eternal danger, is something that should cause our heart to sing. Here Hannah has her whole being involved in praising the LORD. Her heart rejoices, her strength is glorifying the LORD and her mouth is praising him. The LORD commands us to love the LORD our God with all our heart, soul and might. We are not to merely have an intellectual acknowledgment of the historical facts that Jesus came and died for us. We are not only to establish a pattern of worship each Sunday or to establish a pattern of daily Bible reading. Our attitudes must be those of gladness and joy because we understand just what He has done for us. Our mind engaged, yes. Our habits and actions acknowledging God's place in our schedule. Of course he owns all our time, but if we don't have anytime set aside for him he does not own all our time.

I would like to share a story of personal temporal deliverance. The members of our Bible Study have been praying with Barb and I about my employment after I get out of the service this next year. Nancy, Woody, Darla, Maggie, Kim, and Susan have prayed about this. I have been concerned about it so we have made it the subject of prayer. I was also concerned about wisdom to take the right position. I have put my resume out to several companies. An acquaintance from several years back called me out of the blue and asked me to meet his boss for an informal meeting so I could get to know him. As far as I know, he did not know for sure I was getting out of the service. I signed on with this company this week. I was thinking I would have to go through a lot of interviews and the process would be long and hard. I feel that God has answered our prayers and I'm grateful for the job and that I don't have to spend months looking. Perhaps once I start my next job will stretch me. Perhaps I won't stay there as long as I would like. I don't know the future but I feel that God has answered our prayers and this is a blessing.

2. No Comparison To God (Verse 2)

“There is no one holy like the LORD;
there is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.”


Repeated in this verse three times is the phrase “there is none”. There is none like the Lord, there is none besides you, and there is no Rock like our God. The poetic form here as well as the words express the exclusive attributes of God, the otherness of God. Often we use an anthropomorphism to talk about God's actions and attributes. He interacts with us based on our own limitations. He asks us questions as if he did not know the answers. He is persuaded by us as if we had any influence over him. Many of the interactions with God are him coming down to our level. He is different than us, he is also different than other false gods. He is not comparable to either. False gods are not mentioned in this passage but this passage is a parallel passage to Exodus 15:11 which says,

“Who among the gods is like you, O LORD?
Who is like you –
majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory,
working wonders?”


This parallel passage spells out the comparison of God to the false gods, they are not comparable in holiness, glory or their works. While this is true, the emphasis in this passage seems to be more focused on comparing the boastings of proud men and women against the salvation of God. Remember that Hannah's adversary was also participating in the worship of the one true God and was a member of her household. In a sense, it was from within the family of faith. The other woman was an adversary but not an outsider. Some of the most bitter rivalries are from within the family. Siblings can be cruel to one another. Spouses can be cruel to one another. Parents and children can be cruel to one another. The family of faith can be hurt one another. These people can have a lot of power over us because they share the same household. They have the inside track to pain. They know each other's weaknesses. Just to clarify I'm of course not saying this is a good thing. If those who hurt or vex you the most are not members of your own family, count yourself blessed! Perhaps it is someone at work. If the most strident areas of your life are not any of these, could yourself doubly blessed. But you know, God is more very different from all that. All these people in our lives who appear to have so much power over us are not really all that powerful at all. God is a Rock according to this passage. We talked a little bit before how in the days of Samuel cities were built up high on a rocky area so that their enemies would have a difficult time attacking up hill. A high rock was used as a place of refuge, basically a naturally occurring castle. God is the place of protection.


Boasting Is In Opposition To God's Judgment (Verse 3)

“Do not keep talking so proudly
or let you mouth speak such arrogance,
for the LORD is a God who knows,
and by him deeds are weighed.”


This part of the prayer uses a common Hebrew form of poetry. It repeats an idea. Poetry of the Bible often rhymes in terms of concepts, not word endings. The word ending quite naturally rhymed with little effort from the natural structure of the language.

Of course when we hear the part about arrogant or proud speech, we can think of Peninnah's vexing words. Often things people say to us burn into our minds. The worst of them repeat in our mind time after time, sometimes late at night. Sometimes in our idle moments. Whether they are true or they are false, they can hurt. People often engage in trash talk. They inflate their own strength, their own threat, and their own position. Big words are often spoken in order to intimidate, not inform. Proud, self-aggrandizement stands in contrast with how God knows and judges the deeds of men.

This is not just something that is done by children. Adults brag too. There is a man at work who talks trash. You see it in the realm of political speeches and sports. It is not all World Wrestling Entertainment, but of course you do see it there too.

The weighing of the scales gives allusion to the weighing process. In those days a scale was a set of balance scales. An object or amount of a commodity was placed on one side of the scale and a known weight was placed on the other. Often in ancient times this is also how they pictured the end of our lives when we enter eternity. God would weigh our heart and determine our eternal fate. It is a picture of the judgment to come. Some people who look at this like to say that life is a balancing act. Of course this idea that we need a balanced life does have a sense of truth in it. We need a balanced diet, we need to balance work and play. We need to be balanced in how much time we spend at work versus how much time we spend with our family. That is not the image here. The balance is your life being weighed against God's perfect, righteous standard. This is where that holiness of God is either a great thing if we are in his grace or a terror if we insist on living according to our own ways. We will be weighed. Sin is simply not obeying God's law. A sin can take place in thought, word or deed. The LORD who knows all will judge these. If you have placed your faith in Christ, he will count you as righteous not because you said a prayer or because you walked an aisle. He will count you righteous because of the righteous work of Christ on the Cross. He made an atonement for your sins. Perhaps today you do not know Christ. Perhaps the LORD has been pursuing you and you have been resisting. If God has been tugging at your heart, know this that today is the day of salvation. Saved from what? Saved from your sins.

I was talking to a man not too long ago who said that he did not see how God could forgive sin. He knew his own heart that when someone did him wrong he did not forgive easily. He wondered how God could forgive him. He was right, God does not merely ignore our sins. That is why Jesus died on the cross. He atoned for our sins. He paid the price for our sins by dying in our place. If you have placed your faith in Christ, when your heart is weighed at the judgment, you will NOT find yourself lacking. Jesus has paid your debt for you. If you do not have faith in Christ, you will find that your sins will disqualify you from entry to the kingdom of God. We will talk a little more about that later.

II. God is in Control Of Our Station In Life (Verses 4–8a)

Reversal Of Human Strength (Verses 4-5)

“The bows of the warriors are broken,
but those who stumbled are armed with strength.
Those who were full hire themselves out for food,
but those who were hungry hunger no more.
She who was barren has borne seven children,
but she who has had many sons pines away.”


You and I are creatures of inherent need. We must breath air. We must eat. We must sleep. We are inherently dependent upon our environment for food, water and air. We are dependent upon others for many things. I have heard a lot of people talk about the difference between a need and a want. I have even heard it from Sunday School teachers. And there is that scripture which says that with food and clothing let us be content. In a sense it is true that we should be content whether we abase or abound. But do we really think God created us for mere survival. He created us not only to be abase but to also abound. In matters of necessity like food and clothing we are dependent on God. But in matters of life's enrichment we are also dependent upon God. Whether it be the beauty of nature or the pleasure of learning a new skill like how to make a quilt, we are dependent upon God for our eye sight, our finger coordination, our ability to imagine.

We are by nature dependent creatures. We like to think of ourselves as independent but space travel tells us that we are not. I suppose you all heard the news that a privately funded crew left the earth's atmosphere this week. Space flight makes us painfully aware of how dependent upon our environment we are for basic life functions. God made us this way on purpose.

Even when we believe ourselves to be strong, in reality we are just moments away from eternity. When Barbara and I were living in Germany a godly man in our church was also a doctor for the military hospital in Germany. His name was Dr. McDowell. He was an example of faith and steadfastness. He and his wife sacrificed so that he could make it through medical school. They had almost paid off his medical loans. He was the doctor who delivered Elaine. He and his wife had five children. He was playing basketball one day. He had an aneurysm and died. He had everything looking up. I don't believe in anyway that he was judged by God. It is just that reversals strength and weakness can come quickly. These remind us of how even when we are blessed with children or with a skill or with provision, they can all turn quickly. Again, I'm not saying that every reversal is a judgment, but they all are a reminder that we are ultimately dependent upon God for our skills, our food, our wealth or our children. If God gives us a gift, how are we to respond when he no longer gives it. All my skills are really something he has given me. All the wealth that we have are gifts.

God Give Abundance And Want (Verses 6-8a)

“The LORD brings death and makes alive;
he brings down to the grave and raises up.
The LORD sends poverty and wealth;
he humbles and he exalts.
He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
and has them inherit a throne of honor.”


Here Hannah gets into a deep topic. If we were to look at how she treats the topic you might think that she has some of it backwards. She talks about how the LORD brings death but then makes alive. Shouldn't she say that the LORD gives life and then brings death. Her point is not that we have our ups and downs and in the end we die. Rather there are a lot of reversals in this life. Those who have strength in battle will find their equipment failing. Those who were stumbling will find strength. Those who had enough to eat are having to hire themselves out. Those who were hungry are full. Now she has prophetic insight to a transcending reversal. We will die and though we die, God will raise us up. He has sent death as a punishment for Adam's sin. We are children of Adam and we are sinful like Adam. We were in Adam while he sinned and we sin of our own accord. We die because we are sinful But even though God has brought death upon the human race he will also resurrect those who are in him. He will also raise us up when he judges us.

This passage describes both the eternal reversals, death but followed by the resurrection, and then also the reversals of this life, things like cycles of wealth and poverty, seasons of honor and seasons of humility. The weather in our part of the world has four seasons. Spring and summer bring time of agricultural production. Autumn and Winter are a season of rest. The land of Israel has basically two seasons, one dry and one rainy. These cycles contribute to the character of the agricultural environment and the natural environment. In my own life I have seen honor followed by humility. I personally have been sometimes discouraged by the low cycles, feeling that I had somehow stumbled outside of God's will. These seasons of humility were sometimes just after great successes. Rather than trust God for the up and down cycle, I focused on my own weaknesses. As we talked about before, we really are not strong except in a dependent manner. The cycles of abundance and poverty help us understand our dependence on God.

In this passage do you see who is ultimately poor? Those who are ultimately poor are those who are dead. They are in the dust or ash heap not figuratively but literally. They have died and decomposed. But he will raise us in the last days. What will God do for his elect? He will seat them at the marriage feast of the lamb. God's elect will be seated on thrones of honor.


III. God is Sovereign In His Providential Control (Verses 8b-10)
He Who Established This World Keeps His Saints (Verses 8b-9a)


“For the foundations of the earth are the LORD's;
upon them he has set the world.
He will guard the feet of his saints,
but the wicked will be silenced in darkness.”


God created this world that we see. His creative works established all that we see through his Word. He spoke and brought light, the oceans, the sky and the land into existence. These environments he created he also populated. He not only created the material world but he maintains it. He created the material and maintains it, he also created life. By the same power that he created the world, he is also able to sustain the life of his people. He protect those who follow his ways but he will judge those who are walking in wickedness.

Barbara and I met while we were in college. Some of the ministerial students were involved with a youth event. It was February weekend and there was snow on the ground. I was driving some of the other students from college to a church in Aurora, Missouri. I was driving too fast for the snowy conditions. It on the flat river bottom plain of the boot heel area. I can still visualize the flat terrain. Ahead of us a car was stopped in the road. I don't know why they were stopped in the middle of the road. I pushed on the breaks and put our car into a spin. I could see that we were about to crash into the car which was stopped. I could see the tail end of that other car was going to slam into the door, right where I was. Just as we got to within a few feet of the other car I cried out in prayer to Jesus. As I did the other car speed out of the way.

This is an example of God giving temporal safety. But ultimately there an eternal safety that we are concerned about. It is not simply God keeping us from harm when we are foolish or that God is keeping us healthy. Ultimately we are looking for his protection for eternity. We are looking to be in his care for eternity.


Human Strength Will Endure; Messiah's Strength Will Be Exalted (Verses 9b-10)

“It is not by strength that one prevails;
those who oppose the LORD will be shattered.
He will thunder against them from heaven.
the LORD will judge the ends of the earth.
He will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed.”


In your life, are you opposing the LORD? When you have heard his gospel message of his free gift of eternal life, did you reject it by putting off any sort of commitment? The word gospel means good news. The good news is that there is a deliverer, he has delivered us from our sin. He has redeemed us, purchased us by his sacrificial work on the cross. It is not by our works that we are saved from our sin, but rather by his works on the cross. Salvation is a free gift and it can not be earned or deserved. If you have not placed your faith in Christ, you are bearing your sins under you own strength. This passage makes it clear that those who are depending on their own strength will be judged. This judgment is not a small thing of God saying, “Tisk, tisk, you should have done a little better.” In our modern idea of what holy living is all about, we tend to soften the requirements and the punishments for sin. As you can see in this passage, God will shatter his enemies, he will judge the ends of the earth.

What is the answer to our problem? It is that strength is found in God's king. That is not a human political king but the one who would come from the lineage of King David. His strength was not found in human institutions but in his nature of being very God. His strength is found in his sacrificial work on the cross and his resurrection from the dead. There was not a king in Israel in the days of Hannah. She anticipates the acts of her son anointing a king. King David is an type of the King who would come later. She anticipates the coming of the Messiah. Messiah means anointed one. The one who has the anointing of the Holy Spirit without measure. Our ultimate hope is in the Messiah, God's Son who died on the cross for our sins.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, we have examined a prayer about a woman's temporal troubles of not being able to have children which led her to the grace of God. She found that there are cycles of abundance and want, cycles of honor and humility. She pointed us to the fact that we are ultimately dependent upon God and we experience this temporally during these changes. While we could count without end the various ways we experience ups and downs, in the end, our eternal rewards are what matters. This passage is clear about he judgment to come. We will be judged. If we are depending on our own strength, we will be found wanting. The answer found here is that God has sent his Messiah. His strength is what has prevailed of death and the grave. Have you placed your faith in the Savior? Is he calling you today? I would like to ask that everyone close their eyes and bow their heads. First for you have faith in Christ I want to ask you to pray that you would understand whether you abase or abound that Christ is all sufficient for you. And again if you are a Christian, I want you also to pray for those around you who may not know Christ. Pray that the Holy Spirit would call the lost to the Father through the work of His Son on the Cross. To those here who do not know if you have faith I would like to talk to you also. Perhaps you sense that you have been walking in your own strength and doing it on your own. Perhaps today you know God is calling you to himself. You know in your heart that you need Jesus, that you can not do it yourself. Perhaps you don't know where you will spend eternity. If it is your desire to follow Christ what I am going to ask you to do is pray right where you are. Where you are sitting, right now, I would like you to pray this simple prayer silently .

“Lord, Jesus, I come to you asking to know you and be known by you. I have depended on my own strength. I have thought I could do it on my own strength. I acknowledge myself to be a sinner who has no hope without you. I want your gift of eternal life, LORD. Give me faith because I have no faith of my own. Thank you for paying for my sins on the Cross. Thank you for Jesus who died in my place. Thank you for creating me. Thank you for redeeming me. And it is in Jesus name that I pray Amen.”


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