J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

What Gives You the Right? – Notes from 1 Samuel 1:21-28

Last week, we looked at Hannah’s desperate plea before God to give her a child.  Hannah had suffered for years not being able to have children, she was mocked regularly by her husband’s other wife, her husband just couldn’t see the depths of her pain, and her pastor thought she was a drunk.  At the end of her self, she cries out to God telling Him that if He would grant her a son, she would give him back to God as a Nazirite Priest.

And we spent considerable time last week discussing this idea of making a vow or bargaining with God, and we came away with two guiding principles as we offer our requests to God.

First, every thing that you claim as yours (your career, your home, your car, your family), God already claims as His possession.  We saw this in our Call to Worship.  Psalm 24:1 The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.  Practically, that means that even if you earn something by your own sweat and effort, God claims it as His because it is God who equips, trains, and ordains.

Secondly, when petitioning or desiring something from God, you have nothing with which to negotiate.  God, as we have seen Him described in the book of 1 Samuel, is the Lord of Hosts.  This is a title of God that describes His all-sufficiency, complete adequacy, and His lacking of no good thing.  With this, there is nothing that you can offer to God when praying.  He needs nothing from you.

God knows your faith and does not require you to prove it.   God desires for you to exercise your faith but only in Him.  You already gave away everything when you proclaimed faith in Jesus.  God wants you to trust that Jesus has secured all of your hope for you and because of that, you don’t have to negotiate with God.

Practically, these truths should refine our prayers.  God has the absolute sovereign right to do as He wills with every thing, circumstance, and person.  Anything that you ask of Him, you ask as Jesus did when He said, “Not my will, Father, but yours be done.”  Our prayers should be offered with the sense that whatever is being asked for, is already God’s possession and to be used for God’s glory.   Practically, just don’t ask for anything that you aren’t willing to completely use and see as strategic in the service of God. .

So this week, as we watch Hannah fulfill her vow in giving Samuel back to God, we should look and consider God’s right over all things before we consider any rights that we think we might have.  Trust me, though it may not sound like it, but this is a gracious truth, and hopefully, we’ll see that.  So this week, let’s attempt to answer this Big Picture Question:

Big Picture Question:  What right does God have over a person’s life?

I Samuel 1:21 The man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice and to pay his vow. 22 But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, so that he may appear in the presence of the Lord and dwell there forever.”

The time comes for Elkanah and His family to once again offer their yearly sacrifice.  Along the way, we see that Elkanah also has a vow to fulfill.  Quite honestly, we have no idea what it was.  We just know that the family Elkanah was fond making vows.  But we do know this, Elkanah and His family should be commended as they saw family worship and sacrifice as the centerpiece of the family.  In our day and age, when we can casually choose not to worship as a family or comfortably take a few Sunday off from worshiping with our church family, we miss out on the central significance that many in the OT understood.  A binding together, a strengthening of the family occurs as a family worships together at home and more importantly, when they worship together with the people of God as we see Elkanah doing several times here.  Elkanah’s family, though dysfunctional, valued and protected family corporate worship with God’s people.

This time however, Hannah chose not to go with the family.  She knew that as soon as the child was weaned, he would be offering him to God in the service of the priesthood for the rest of his life.  She chose to practically, but probably emotionally, steal these last few moments with her dear son, before she gives him away.

Last week, I may have made it sound like Hannah’s vow to give her son away to the priesthood was not great thing because God already claims all things as His possession, but I did not mean to give the impression that Hannah was not making a sacrifice.  That was not my intention.  Though Hannah had nothing with which to negotiate with God, she did make a great sacrifice.  I cannot imagine wanting a child so badly, having him, and then knowing that he would have to be raised by someone else.  Maybe she thought, “It is better to have had and held and fed this wonderful child and give Him away to the service of God, than to have never had the chance to see his sweet face and hear his sweet voice.”

Now some wonder how old Samuel was at this point.  Well according to 2 Chronicles 3:16, you had to be at least 3 years old to enter service in the temple, so more than likely, Hannah wants to wait until he is 3 before she gives her son into service of the God.  Again, I can’t imagine, 3 years.  A 3 year old knows their mom and dad.  They are talking, walking, interacting…they are little people.  My heart hurts at just the idea of not seeing my kids…I can’t imagine what Hannah went through.

23 Elkanah her husband said to her, “Do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him; only, may the Lord establish his word.” So the woman remained and nursed her son until she weaned him.

Now, this is amazing to me.  Samuel is Elkanah’s kid yet he agrees to let him go into the priesthood.  Men, can you imagine wanting a son so badly, and then once you have a son, finding out that your wife has promised to give your son away to God?  I don’t know how many marriages are Godly enough to endure that.  Most couples will argue if one spouse promises to do something on a weekend without asking the other.  You’ll hear things like, “Well, you made that promise.  I didn’t.  I’m not going anywhere this weekend.  You can go if you want, but I ain’t going.”  Picking the wrong restaurant can cause a fight.  But Elkanah is a Godly man.  He knows that he and Hannah never would have had Samuel without God’s help in the first place.  He also knows how great of a sacrifice this must be for Hannah, so he says, “Keep him until he is weaned.  Get those last few minutes, sweetheart, and then we’ll send him off.  Then Elkanah says something that seems very odd.  After telling Hannah to keep Samuel at home until he is weaned, he tells her, “Only, may the Lord establish his word.”  What an odd thing to say.  In light of Hannah’s vow to send Samuel into the Priesthood, you would think that Elkanah might say, “Keep him until he is weaned, but be sure to keep your word.”  But instead, he emphasizes that it is the Lord’s word that must be established.

What gives?   Well, remember, Hannah does not have a child because she because of her vow.  She has a child because God was gracious and granted her a son.  Elkanah is perhaps more Godly than I thought because he sees that.  Elkanah knows that the only reason they have a child to send into the priesthood is because God established it by the word of His power.  That is how powerful the word of God is.  Now, we see this is true in many places of scripture.

  • Genesis 1 shows us that God spoke creation into existence.
  • John 11 Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead by a spoken word.
  • Hebrews 1:3 tells us that “Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power”
  • The Holy Spirit seals and protects the powerful word in Ephesians 1:13
    “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit”

Any and everything that God ordains to happen comes about by the word of God’s power.   God ordained that Hannah, the barren woman, was going to have children, and God ordained that Samuel was going to be a priest.  There was not a single thing on earth that was going to stop or frustrate either one of those things from happening.

As Romans 9:16 says, “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”

This is a moment of application for us, and it is also one of the ways in which we address our Big Picture Question.  You see God has absolute right over each and every person born because He is the Father of all Creation.    God spoke all things, including human beings, into creation, the Son Jesus Christ upholds all things by the word of His power, and the Holy Spirit applies the proclaimed Word of God to people’s hearts.  To those who have faith in Jesus, God’s right is exercised graciously in their life because judgment for sin has been poured out on Jesus.  And to those who do not have faith in Jesus, God’s right is exercised as judgment to them for penalty of their sins.

Even knowing that God exercises His sovereignty over us graciously doesn’t always help.  When we want something to happen, it is very hard to discern why God does or does not do certain things that we want Him to do.  For example, right now, some of you may be immensely frustrated in the sense that you keep trying and trying, but whatever it is that you are striving for, never seems to come about.

  • There feels like no progress and no improvement.
  • Maybe you are trying to potty train a child and no progress is being made.
  • Maybe you are trying to lose weight and you aren’t anywhere close to your goal.
  • Maybe you are looking for a job and there is just nothing out there.
  • Maybe you want to try to read your Bible every day.
  • Maybe you want to communicate with your spouse but just keep fighting.
  • Maybe you have shared Jesus with a friend over and over yet they continue not believing.

And each day, you wake up and say that you are going to do this and do that.  We do that all the time.  We declare what we are going to do and what we are not going to do.  And the temptation is to live your life as if there is no other countering influence at play.  But as Elkanah said, “May the Lord establish HIS word.”  God claims absolute divine right in your life, about your life, and for your life.  God answers your prayers in the positive or the negative according to the counsel of His own will and for whatever brings Him glory.

You might hear that and say, “Well, how in the world am I supposed to live if I can work hard, put everything I have into something, but still have to wait on God?  The intention of this truth is not to frustrate you, but instead its intended to provide you perspective and encouragement and we find them both in

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!  34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”

In God’s grace, He has revealed so much about Himself through His scriptures.  We can know things like God’s characteristics and how we can reflect those characteristics in our lifestyle.  We can know God’s history of saving and redeeming people, and we can know His future promises for those things as well.  But we are not God’s counselor.  Prayer is not advising God about what would be best.

  • We are not saying, “Hey God, let me give you a little bit of advice…”
  • Praying and petitioning are merely humble requests from a child to a Father.
  • Prayers are offered to God in understanding that it is up to the wisdom of God to decide and discern what is best and what is His will.

Elkanah knew this.  He knew that it was God who established both the birth of Samuel and ultimately Samuel’s future life as a priest in service to the Lord.  This gave Elkanah great peace and faith to worship God here.  Folks let’s make this the first of our large applications this week.  Let’s speak apply it individually here and we’ll apply it to families at the end of the sermon.  So much of our day to day frustration is because we live our lives as if we are completely self-sufficient people who have a sugar daddy in heaven who can help us out in pinch.  Because of this, we get really frustrated when things go our way.    We get really frustrated when even the good things we want are beyond our grasp.  But the fundamental problem here I believe is that we make the mistake of thinking that our lives our own.  But if you have given your heart to Jesus, your life is not your own.  What you buy, where you live, where you work, what you do, these are not your freedoms anymore.   They are merely further avenues to serve God, so we ask God for wisdom in these things, but then grow in resting that ultimately, our good and gracious Sovereign God will choose these things for us, and as His children, we are called to rest in what He chooses for us.

If we don’t get this, we become discontent and even bitter because we always want something different than what we have.  Having said that, let’s moved towards the end of the passage, and it will allow us to speak to how these verses apply to how we raise our children.

24 And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. And the child was young.  25 Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli.

When you look at this sacrifice, this is a whopping sacrifice.  It is a rich man’s sacrifice.   The bull would have been enough, but they add an ephah of flour and an entire jug of wine.  It is almost like they were saying, “We are going to celebrate this incredibly difficult and painful moment.”  Hannah is giving away what she longed for.  Hannah will not nurse Samuel anymore.  She won’t hold his hand anymore.  She won’t look into his face and see herself in his reflection.

So, instead of sulking at the sacrifice she has to make or running from God in the face of a difficult thing, she celebrates.  She worships God in the midst of her pain.  She worships knowing that this wonderful gift of a child is going to enable people to worship God.  Folks, I know this is incredibly hard to do.  I’ve seen it the difficulty of worshiping in the midst of painful circumstances especially this week.  But I’ve also seen God gift and bless incredible amounts of peace and faith when people worship Him in the midst of their pain.  Waiting for everything to get better before worshiping God is wasting the opportunity God has given with challenging circumstances.  Many of you might think, “I just need my circumstances to change,” and though they might, what many of you need is to worship God no matter what.

In Hannah’s praise, you hear that she knows that she is a secure child of God and that enables her to endure pain for herself and her child, because she trusts God.  That is the spirit of sonship that makes your hearts cry out “Abba Father.  As our children’s catechism asks, “Why ought you to glorify God?”  And the answer is “Because He loves me and takes care of me.”

What Hannah does here is a vivid picture of what every Christian parent is to do.   No, not every parent is to send their child into the priesthood.  However, each parent is to live as if they are training their children to be given over to the service of God.  We raise our children saying, “Use this child for the advancement of your kingdom and the lifting up of your glory God.”  In whatever way you think is best God, we offer them to you.  So, Hannah and Elkanah offer their child to Eli to be trained in the priesthood.   What a wonderful picture of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Hear the similarities:   God made a vow to save His people from their sin in Gen 3:15.  God secured all blessings for those who have faith in Him by being faithful to His word, offering up His son into the priesthood so that Jesus could be both the perfect sacrifice and the perfect, sympathetic High Priest who declares His people forgiven.

Jesus became a greater Samuel so that you might know forgiveness and grace.  Look at Hannah’s heart cry as she gives her son away in verse 26.

26 And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. 27 For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him.   28 Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.”  And he worshiped the Lord there.

As Hannah says goodbye to Samuel, she cries out as I imagine many of us would as well.  She cries, “Lord.  You are my Lord.”  By calling Him Lord twice, she is emphasizing that God has absolute sovereignty and claim over her life.  She goes on to say, “And as you live, as you sustain all life by your word, I stand here before you.  I asked you for this wonderful child, I prayed day and night in tears, and you heard my cry and answered my prayer.  Because of that I lend this child to you.  As long as he is alive, I will lend him to you God.    This is where we find comfort as we know that Lydia Grace King has leukemia.

Now, when we read this, it sounds like God has taken out a loan or something.  To our ears, Hannah’s language sounds like she is saying, “Hey God, I know your priests aren’t really getting it done, so I’m giving you a loaner until they do.”  You see the word “lent” here is incredibly difficult to translate into English.  Some translate it “give back” but that is not big enough of a picture.  This is more of an idea of “He is made over to God” or “He is given over to God.”  The word picture that Hannah is using is the idea of looking at something you own, in this case your child, and saying, they are not really my possession.  They are God’s, so I’m going to make this moment an act where I give this child over in ceremony to offer my child to God.

“Any parents who are living in covenant with the Lord should find themselves following Hannah in general principle even if not in precise practice.  We should solemnly and passionately desire that each child be “made over to God.”  God’s gifts are to be given back to Him.”  Dale Davis

We do this when we baptize our children.  We by faith are saying, “My child is lent or made over or given over to God.”  Whether or not you have children, you do this as members of the church when you promise to help parents raise their children.  We are to live this out in every choice we make for our children.   How we teach them.  How we train them.  What we expect of them.  What we communicate about the promises of God to them.  Every thing we do in raising our children is to prepare them for greater service to God.   Why?  Because God claims an absolute right over you AND your children.  Let me give you an example of what this looks like from scripture.

Give ear, O my people, to my law; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from the children, telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.  For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, that they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments (Psa 78:1-7).

So, in light of the fact that God promises to work in our families and claims an absolute right in that work, how should we respond?    Well, I would say in our usual Create and Engage fashion.  Knowing that God is going to work in our children’s lives AND that we are called to be responsible in that work in their life, SK is excited to offer a few new things to help care for our children and assist parents.  Sunday School, children’s bulletins, Nursery.  Knowing that God’s common grace is poured out even to parents who do not claim Jesus as their savior, we are to serve this community with our children and by offering to help parents and children here in town.

Let me give you an example of a tremendous privilege my family had the other day.  Amy and I were recently invited to a birthday cookout from a friend of ours on RFD.  They encouraged us to bring our children along.  Once we got there, we realized that we only knew 2 people in the whole crowd.  So, here we were, Amy, the girls and I, among a huge crowd of police, EMS, and FD that for the most part I imagine didn’t claim to know Christ, celebrating a birthday with a cookout, beverages, volleyball, cornhole and all the other stuff that goes alone with cookouts.  My kids are playing with their kids, we are grilling, laughing, joking, and establishing the relationships that are essential so that we might share Christ with others.

Ultimately, the questions of life come up, and whether you have kids or not, get to offer a wonderfully gracious, sovereign God who proclaims grace to all who faith in Christ.  As you place yourself intentionally in people’s lives as God has with you, those opportunities will arise, and we at SK are dead set are providing those opportunities for you and for us as a church.

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September 16, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

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