J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

Love of God vs Love of the World – 1 Samuel 18:17ff

I don’t know how many of us can say that we have been truly hated in our life.  If your junior high school experience was like mine, then you may have experienced some pretty bad hostility, maybe even some bullying – but I don’t know how many of us know what it means to be hated.  If you have, I’m sympathetic and my heart hurts for you.

Now, maybe, you don’t care if people hate you but I bet if it is someone that you care about or have cared about, their hatred hurts you greatly.  I can honestly say that there have been a few times that I have felt hated by some people and those were miserable times.  Looking back however, I can also say that I bore a good measure of responsibility for that hatred.  I know that even in matters of Godliness and matters of church, I can be arrogant, impatient, and judgmental, so that hatred was in part my responsibility.

Did you know that Jesus told his disciples and warned each and every one of us that if we have faith in Him and follow Him, that there is a guarantee that you and I and everyone else who takes the name Christian will be hated by some folks?  Perhaps no one told you that when they offered Jesus to you in faith, but faith in Jesus means hatred from the world.   We’re not talking about the hatred that often comes from the world when Christians are incredibly offense, judgmental, or self-righteous.  If you are a Christian and are judgmental and self-righteous to people who are not Christians, and they hate you, then you deserve that hatred.  Drink in the hatred if you want; just don’t call it persecution.

Hatred from the world comes from the offensive nature of Jesus, not from your offensive representation of Jesus.  This week in the book of 1 Samuel, we are going to look at an example of David being hated for his faith.  In it, we are going to see what it means to stand for Godliness in an ungodly world and we will also see what it looks like to endure worldy hatred with Godliness.  So with that in mind, let’s pursue this Big Idea.

Big Idea:  The love of the Father comes at the cost of hatred from the world

Much like our story of David and Goliath two weeks ago, this story of David is lengthy and I think it is best understood being read straight through, so if you would bear with me, allow me to begin reading at 1 Samuel 18:17

1 Samuel 18:17 Then Saul said to David, “Here is my elder daughter Merab. I will give her to you for a wife. Only be valiant for me and fight the Lord’s battles.” For Saul thought, “Let not my hand be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines be against him.” 18 And David said to Saul, “Who am I, and who are my relatives, my father’s clan in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?”

 19 But at the time when Merab, Saul’s daughter, should have been given to David, she was given to Adriel the Meholathite for a wife.  20 Now Saul’s daughter Michal loved David. And they told Saul, and the thing pleased him. 21 Saul thought, “Let me give her to him, that she may be a snare for him and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” Therefore Saul said to David a second time,  “You shall now be my son-in-law.” 22 And Saul commanded his servants, “Speak to David in private and say, ‘Behold, the king has delight in you, and all his servants love you. Now then become the king’s son-in-law.’”

 23 And Saul’s servants spoke those words in the ears of David. And David said, “Does it seem to you a little thing to become the king’s son-in-law, since I am a poor man and have no reputation?” 24 And the servants of Saul told him, “Thus and so did David speak.” 25 Then Saul said, “Thus shall you say to David, ‘The king desires no bride-price except a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, that he may be avenged of the king’s enemies.’” Now Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines.

 26 And when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to be the king’s son-in-law. Before the time had expired, 27 David arose and went, along with his men, and killed two hundred of the Philistines. And David brought their foreskins, which were given in full number to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law.

 And Saul gave him his daughter Michal for a wife. 28 But when Saul saw and knew that the Lord was with David, and that Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved him, 29 Saul was even more afraid of David. So Saul was David’s enemy continually.  30 Then the princes of the Philistines came out to battle, and as often as they came out David had more success than all the servants of Saul, so that his name was highly esteemed.

Over the last few weeks, we have seen David rise to leadership within the Kingdom of Saul.  He plays music to alleviate Saul’s suffering from an evil spirit.  He defeats Goliath the champion of the Philistines thus securing the safety of all of God’s people.  He is even gaining fame among God’s people to the jealousy of the king.

Now, King Saul is keeping his word.  He promised to give His daughter’s hand in marriage to whomever defeated Goliath and he also promised to allow that champion’s family to live tax free – not a bad deal.  Saul offers his daughter Merab to David and commissions David to continue on as a solider for the people of God.  But as Saul typically does, he is also working an angle.  Saul is willing to have his daughter marry David and then send David off to fight the Philistines so that they can kill David so he doesn’t have to.

You know what my first reaction is to this?  What a terrible father Saul is.  Specifically, what a terrible father to a daughter Saul is.  He is going to hand his daughter over to a man that she does not know so they can be married and then her new husband can be killed leaving his daughter widowed.  What a mess this guy is.  Parents, please don’t use your children to make you feel better about yourself or use them to accomplish what you have been unable to accomplish.  None of us have kingly powers, but please don’t use your kids for you own gain.  Saul is a mess.

David however continues to display great faith and humility here.  Even though he rightfully can marry Saul’s daughter, he offers that his family is too low in status to actually marry her.  He doesn’t feel worthy of the honor, despite being incredibly Godly and despite actually being the King of Israel since Samuel anointed him a couple chapters back.  But in verse 19, we see that somehow, Merab was given to another man.  I don’t know if Saul just said okay when David felt unworthy or if there was some other power play that served Saul’s purpose, but Merab marries some dude named Adriel.  However, Saul had another daughter named Michal, and what’s nice is she actually likes David.  Saul finds out and thinks this is a great plan.

So in verse 21, he plans on manipulating Michal in the same way that he wanted to manipulate his other daughter.  So he offers Michal’s hand in marriage to David hoping that he can drag him into service once again and maybe the Philistines will kill him.  Saul sends his servants out with a kingly PR announcement.  “Hey it would be the great pleasure of the King if you David would marry his daughter.  The king takes great delight in calling you son in law blah, blah, blah” which is a flat out lie.  So Saul sends his servants to David to see if he is willing to marry Michael and once again David’s humility is astounding

David says, “Do you realize how great a thing it is to be the son in law of the king?  I don’t deserve it in anyway.  I can’t marry the daughter of the king.”  So the servants take David’s message of humility back to Saul which as you can imagine just seems to frustrate Saul’s plans.  And Saul plans, once again, hoping to take advantage of David’s Godliness.  If David feels like he has not earned the right to be the king’s son-in-law, which he definitely did through the whole Goliath thing, Saul decides to give him a chance to earn the right.  Saul tells David that if he wants to earn the right to be the king’s son-in-law, then he can do just that by bringing 100 Philistine foreskins to him.

David thinks this is a great idea.  It’s amazing what love will cause a man to do.  Now before we move on, let me explain exactly what Saul is asking.  Saul is asking David to personally kill 100 Philistine men.  Then, after they are dead, he wants David to cut off the foreskin of each man.  To give some explanation of that, the physical sign of being born into the people of God was the sacrament of circumcision where ever male more into a Jewish family would have their foreskin cut off on the 8th day after they were born.  This is why David called Goliath an uncircumcised Philistine.  The lack of circumcision was a physical sign of a person being separated from God.

So, Saul wants David to cut off the foreskins of the 100 men he kills.  Imagine the nasty, bloody work that David is enduring to marry Michal.  Ladies that is some dedication.  Men, that is commitment.  This of course is Saul’s billionth plan to try to have David killed while making it look like he was innocent of David’s blood.  But this is one of those occasions where God just keeps heaping blessing upon blessing upon the man in which God has chosen to bless.

David likes this plan and apparently wants to marry Michal, so he heads out, kills 200 Philistines, cuts off their foreskins and presents them to King Saul.  I have no idea how you do that.  Do you put them in box?  Does a box of 200 pieces of dead flesh need a bow?  What do you do with it once you’re done?  Did they have igloo coolers back then?  A sack maybe?  Either way, David earns the right to marry Michal by once again defeating the enemy of God’s people.  God has already set David aside to be king but now he earns the right to be in the kingly lineage by marrying Michal.  And God does it by once again securing the livelihood of the people of God by having their enemies defeated.

Our Sovereign King moves to set David up as king both spiritually and physically while at the same time securing the protection of His people.  What a great blessing to see God’s sovereign hand at work to bring about His plan and the blessings of His people.  So David finally gets married to Michal.  And despite Saul actually being the one who put all of this in place, once everything happens, he is more afraid.  I guess he just hoped that David would die while fighting the Philistines.  Saul should be afraid because he realizes that no matter what he does, no matter what evil plan he has, and no matter what hatred he has for David, God the Almighty is the one who is at work.  And God has chosen to bless all that David does.

Saul realized that God was with David and that the Lord was not with him.  Despite all of Saul’s efforts, the exact opposite of what he wanted to happen has come about.  Now, despite Saul’s best evil efforts, David is married to his daughter Michal.  Michal loves him a lot so it is not just a political marriage but a Godly one.  David has defeated the enemy of God’s people and God just keeps blessing and protecting him.  From that day, Saul hated David and David was his enemy.  On top of that, the Philistines kept pressing the people of God.  And David keeps winning battles and keeps winning regard in the eyes of the people of God.

Now situations like these are when we typically freak out.  For example, if I told you right now that in the next couple of weeks, your boss was going to hate you and put a plan in place to undermine your talent and your authority, how would you react?  If I told you that people were going to actively seek to take your life and that you would have to fight to protect it, how would you react?  Even if I told you that when it was all said and done, you would emerge victorious in these things and that God would bless you, how many of you would sign up for these hardships?

I imagine not many of us would, and that is why the church is weak today.  Ask yourself, and I’ll be honest, I hope that your thinking is more in line with David’s than what I fear, but if you knew that in the end, you would sit unreservedly under God’s favor, would you endure whatever hardship God ordained for you to endure.  Ask yourself that now.  Are you willing to be hated for the name of Christ?   Are you willing to endure massive trial with great risk for both your physical well-being as well as your livelihood and family for the sake of bringing honor and glory to God?

Is the unswerving love, affection, and approval of God earned for you through Jesus Christ enough for you to live a life where you say, “My life is not my own.  I die to my own desires so as to live out the desires of my heavenly father.”  That is what David did in several supreme acts of personal sacrifice and risk.  Before you answer that question, please hear what Jesus commands of you.  And know, I offer these sweets commands of our Savior to all of our hearts so that we know exactly what relationship we have been called to.

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Jesus commands each and every one of you who claim the name of Christian or claim faith in Jesus to love other people in the same way that Jesus loved you.  That means, that since you were God’s enemies and Jesus loved you openly and actively in the face of your hostility, you too are to pour out love, affection, and sacrifice to even those who hate you.  And Jesus describes the love that you are to display as laying down your life for the sake of your friends.  Now when you hear that you might say, “whew” I only have to lay down my life for the people I like.

There are definitely some people I don’t want to sacrifice for.  Thanks Jesus for making it easier on me.  That’s awesome.  But before you get to excited, Jesus explains His commandment and His expectation of you.  Jesus describes His followers as friends because a friend of Jesus obeys this command of loving others just as Jesus obeyed the command of His father.  Again, it sounds like, “Okay, I only have to love those who are my friends, but Jesus explains things even further.”

He says, “Hey if you believe in me (or as I would say if you believe in Jesus), it is not because you chose Jesus; it is because Jesus chose you.”  In fact, not only did Jesus choose you to believe, He chose you to actually bear fruit which means that Jesus has chosen that you will believe and be able to obey.  As much as was overcome for you to be saved which was your sin, your hostility towards death, your deserved fate in hell, your absolute desire to do what you want and not God wants, Jesus overcame that by choosing you and dying for you and rising again for you.  As sure as those things are, it is as sure that God’s people will be able to overcome their fears and obey.

Jesus chose His enemies to be His children and that was His work of love towards you, so if you have to love as Jesus loves, then you must make your enemies your friends as Jesus did by choosing to love them.  Let’s look at how that is going to go for you in verse 18.

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.

If you choose to love your enemies as Jesus has chosen to love you, some people are going to hate you just like some people hated Jesus.  That means that one of the indicators that you are walking faithfully in the life that Jesus has called of you is that you are going to be hated for His sake.  If you live a life where Jesus in your life does not produce some measure of hatred then Jesus says, you don’t know me because the only people that don’t receive hatred from the world are the people of the world.  But Jesus says, “Christian, you are not of this world, so expect people to hate you.”

Let me ask again, are you personally convicted and resolute in your faith in Jesus that you will live a life of such daunting love to others in the name of Jesus that you are willing and ready for people to hate you because of Jesus?  Once again let me clarify:  some people love to make people mad by starting fights about the Bible but that is not what is being talked about here.  Unfortunately, Christians love to be hated by “liberals” and homosexuals and other groups, but that is not what we are talking about here.  That is often blustery arrogance and pride and quite different than proclaiming Jesus and calling people to repentance.

What I’m asking is “Do you live out such an example of loving the unlovely that people hate you for offering grace to those who don’t deserve it?”  The call of following Jesus is one where you are promised absolute forgiveness and the undying affection of your heavenly Father.  But the cost of following Jesus, according to Jesus Himself, is that the world is going to hate you just like they hated Jesus.

Jesus tells us, “Listen, you are not greater than your master, so if your master is persecuted, you will be persecuted.”  If Jesus, your Lord and Savior, was hated, then you will be hated.  Does any one’s life look like this?  I say all of these things not because I want you to go immediately get into a fight with your neighbor so you can be hated.  No, I’m calling you to radically choose to love the unlovely just as Christ did.  I’m calling you to obey the command of your Savior to love others as you have been loved.  If the love of Jesus to you does not motivate you to love others, even very difficult and different people, then you must question how well you know the love of Jesus.

You know we had a conversation around this topic recently at Fight Club.  In the book of Acts, there is a vast number of people who hear the proclamation of Jesus, and they cry out to Peter and say “What should we do?”  Peter responds that they should repent, crying out to Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, they should be baptized and that God has promised to do this work in their families as well.  Thousands of people responded ushering in the era of the church as we know it.  So far, so good, right?  That’s who many of us are, right?  We have cried out to Jesus in faith and forgiveness of sins.  However, what happens next is nothing short of remarkable.  The gathering of the church begins praying, studying, eating meals together, taking the Lord’s Supper together.  More and more people come to know Christ at great personal cost.  People profess faith in Jesus and lose their homes, families, and jobs, so these new believers begin selling their own goods so that others might not be in need.

God begins to work miraculously and people begin to be healed physically to coincide with their spiritual healing.  This loving of others like Jesus’ loving brings about exactly what Jesus says it will bring about:  opposition.  Peter gets dragged in front of bunch of folks who hate him because of Jesus, but Peter tells them how through repentance and faith, Jesus will save them and transform.  Peter even goes to jail for this.  Guess what happens?  All of this actually serves to encourage the church and the believers pray this prayer in Acts 3.

And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

Persecution led to more boldness and faith and more people hearing of and responding to the call of Jesus.  Ok, so we have David obeying faithfully and being hated by Saul.  We have Jesus promising that following Him means you will be hated.  And we have the church in Acts proclaiming Jesus and being hated.  At the same time, we see the people of God growing and being made secure in every way.  The blessings to the church coincide with the fearless proclamation of the Gospel.  So as I love to ask, what would that look like if these things happened here at SK?

Let’s reckon this truth.  Christian, you are not your own.  You gave yourself away when you proclaimed faith in Jesus.  Whatever life you think you are building, the life you are to build is given over to God.  You better not buy house, get married, have a child, go to the beach, or any thing else in this world unless you feel that it absolutely consistent with the life of worship and sacrifice that God has called you to.  You are not your own.  You were purchased by Jesus at the cost of His blood.

Romans 14: For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

That means that you are God’s possession.  He may call you to live for His sake and He may call you to die for His sake.  Either way, you are to proclaim Jesus to this hurting world.  Unfortunately, in America, it is absolutely okay to build your nice, comfortable life with a good job and a good house and then squeeze some time for God and Jesus and church.  There is nothing sinful with a nice house or a good job.  It is sinful if you are just trying to secure a life of comfort and you squeeze God into the rest of your plans.

I guarantee that life won’t cause anyone to hate you.  You want to know why?  Because that life looks just like the world’s.  There is no offense there.  But you live a life where you say, “Everything I have is to poured out into affection and love and service for Jesus and you know what world?  Jesus calls to live the same way.  You are going to get one of two reactions.

  • Folks are going to heed that call and cry out in faith to Jesus.
  • Or folks are going to hate you because you have called them away from their idols of security.

I will offer 3 applications as we close

Live with an agenda of thankfulness for your relationship with God.  Jesus chose to love you and you were unlovely.  You hated Him and changed your hard heart and poured out grace and affection.

Live with an agenda of self-denial seeking God’s kingdom every relationship you have.

Love others as Jesus loved you which means the denial of self and an unflinching service to others.

Ask God to prepare your heart for both great changes done in people’s lives as well as intense hatred because of the name of Jesus.  You know when I lay this out, you might ask, “Gordon, why would I do this?  Why would I mature in my relationship with Jesus to such an extent that I would take on this level of personal sacrifice and this kind of pain and hurt and suffering?”  I would tell you the very same thing that I tell my heart and my wife’s heart and my family’s heart when you guys hurt us or when people in the world hates us.  The only thing that makes the pain worthwhile and the only thing that redeems the hurt is the beauty of Jesus. He is enough, and on the days when I don’t think He is enough because the pain is so great, I ask Jesus to make Himself enough in my heart and I know He can do the same for you.

June 22, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment

Strengthening Holiness – I Samuel 2:1-4

It’s a very common in the beginning of a movie for a character to be deathly afraid of something, and then after a period of time, they realize the thing that they were afraid of is not scary at all.  Then the movie ends with the main character teaming up with the thing that was scary to battle some very real mean and evil force.  This is the premise of Transformers, Terminator 2, Shrek, and even Alvin and the Chipmunks.

The idea behind these movies is that you need to give things that are different a second chance.  Don’t be so quick to jump to preconceived notions.  Things that are different might not be so scary once you get to know them.

Unfortunately, this is exactly how we approach God’s holiness, and I think this is a mistake.  God’s holiness is not something that we get used to.  God’s holiness is His complete otherness from us.  If other becomes comfortable, then it is no longer other, and holiness is always other.

Scripture tells us that God is completely holy and without sin whereas we are completely sinful and even antagonistic towards God apart His help.  For example, the scriptures say this about God’s holiness.

  • 1 Samuel 2:2 There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside you: neither is there any rock like our God.
  • Psalms 145:17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.

And this scriptures say this about our lack of holiness.

  • Romans 3:23 – for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
  • 2 Chronicles 6:36 – “there is no one who does not sin”

The amazing thing is that as you have faith in Jesus, God forgives you of your sins, and God’ holiness is given to you through Jesus Christ.  Because of this, you now have access

to God.

Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

But here is the thing I want to hold before you.  Though we may approach the throne of grace because of Jesus’ death on the cross, and though we have full access to God the Father because of the work of Jesus Christ, God is not now our buddy to help us go fight the Decepticons.  He is our loving and holy heavenly father.  And because of that, we must never lose a healthy fear of and adoration of God’s holiness, His otherness.

Yes, we are declared holy in God’s sight through Jesus, but any holiness we have is just the holiness of Christ granted to us.  By God’s amazing grace, we share in Jesus’ holiness and are called holy by God, but we must always revere, respect, and worship our God who is Holy.  We must never grow accustomed to it as it as foreign to us as flapping our wings is to flying.  But here is what I would offer to all of us as encouragement.  Though we share in God’s holiness only as He gives it to us, and though God is completely holy and we are completely sinful apart from Him, God’s holiness is intended to strengthen you if you have faith in Christ.  We are not to play loose with holiness or take is lightly, but God’s holiness is intended to strengthen His people.

Though this may seem like something we have never considered before, let’s explore it this week as we watch Hannah sing in praise God as she gives her son, Samuel over to God in the priesthood.  With that in mind, let’s answer this Big Picture Question.

Big Picture Question:  How does God’s holiness strengthen his people?

2:1 And Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in the Lord.

Remember the setting here.  After so many years of being barren and hopeless, God has given Hannah a son, Samuel.  And after enjoying him and raising him for 3 years, she has weaned him and is now offering him to God in service of the priesthood.  From this moment on, she will only see her son occasionally, but she will know that Samuel is her son and that He is God’s amazing gift to her.  As she offers him to God, she breaks into prophetic song celebrating what God has done.

In one of the most painful moments a parent can imagine, she gives her son away, and she sings and prays.  She says, “My heart exults in the Lord,” and “My strength is exalted in the Lord.”  How amazing are those two statements?

First, let’s explore what it means for one’s heart to exult in the Lord.  Let me approach the statement by asking you this question:  Ask yourself, “What makes you happy?”  I know small things make us happy like enjoying a good cup of coffee or eating ice cream, going for a good run, getting in a walk with your spouse, playing a video game.  Those things are great, but most everything I mentioned there is a short term happiness.  What makes you truly happy?  An enduring joy is what I’m talking about.  I’ll be honest, most people I know really aren’t that joyful.  I see people who either have decided to just think the worst of this life so as not to be disappointed or have never found anything with which to find true joy.  Oh people love to tell you, “Oh, I’m doing great,” or “I’ll be fine once I get to vacation,” but a person of real joy is rare.  I think that’s because our hearts exult or lift up or find joy and peace in so many shifting and changing things.

Only when the heart finds something of real, eternal, and everlasting value, will joy then overflow into the rest of their life.  If you exult and take joy in the fact that your relationship with God is repaired, restored, and secure, then you live joy in other places of life.  This is understanding the depth of the Gospel.  Exulting in an ever present, eternal, unshakable, affection and love of the Father poured out on your behalf because His wrath was poured out on His son, Jesus on the cross.

What Hannah is doing here is saying, ‘My heart, my whole being, exalts God.”   She is lifting up God above all because He has been so gracious to her.  This joy, the exultation in who God is, gives her strength.  She can endure the painful moment of giving her son away into the priesthood because her strength is not in her kids, it’s not in her husband and it’s not in the ease of her circumstances.  Her strength is in the good and gracious God who loves her and takes care of her.  Folks, before we move forward, please think on this.  Think about where your joys fall short and where you might have given up on finding joy.

If you can think of places that you expect to find real joy apart from God, I pray that you can repent right now of trying to find any lasting joy in this world outside of God.  Pray that God gives you an over exulting joy in celebration of what God has done for you so that you can then enjoy the joyful aspects of this life in their proper perspective.  You can enjoy you spouse or your children or your job or your church knowing that they are smaller joys that God gives, but they pale in comparison to what Jesus has secured for you:  a peaceful, restored relationship with God.  This was definitely something Hannah understood despite being born thousands of years before Jesus Christ.  Look at the next verse.

My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation.

It’s shocking to see in Biblical print, “My mouth derides my enemies.”  Isn’t it?   You have to ask, “Is Hannah mocking Peninnah who once mocked her?  Well, what we have here is another one of those very difficult words to translate.  “My mouth derides” can also be translated “My mouth opens wide against my enemies” but I don’t know if that helps things at all.  I’ve read commentator after commentator that say that Hannah is not speaking of Peninnah here, but it is pretty hard to get away from it.  Though that language may not mean “I’m mocking” my enemy, it is saying that God has defended Hannah against her enemy.

You see, when Peninnah mocked Hannah, she wasn’t just making fun of her because of her bareness.  Peninnah’s accusations were really mocking God.  They were mocking Hannah’s prayers and desires to have a child.   They were diminishing God’s power and ability to gift Hannah with a child.  So Hannah was rescued, she enjoyed salvation in the sense that she has been delivered from the one that oppressed her.

Before we get all excited and think, “Yeah, God is going to go after that person that spoke sarcastically to me in the grocery store,” consider this.  Your enemy as scripture defines it is not just a person who disagrees with you or confronts you.  Your enemy is the person who openly mocks or attacks you because of Jesus Christ.  You see we have this tension in scripture.   One where David would pray to God for Him to strike down his enemies and the other where Jesus tells you to love your enemies and to pray for their blessing.

When Hannah says that her mouth derides her enemy, she does it not by wishing to see her enemies humiliated but by lifting up salvation.  Rejoicing in your enemy is not mocking them on facebook or a blog or secretly wishing for their doom.  The only true victory one can have over their enemy is the lifting up of the salvation that God offers.  In this case, Hannah couldn’t have children, she was mocked by Peninnah, God gave her children, so Hannah lifts up the one who rescues her as a testimony to any and all that doubted or mocked Hannah for her faith.

You see, Hannah doesn’t lift herself up in the midst of all these things.   She lifts God up.  Her rescue is a lifting up of God and God alone.  And if you are going to lift up God, then you will lift Him up as Hannah does.  Look at the next verse.

There is none holy like the Lord; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.

Has your heart ever cried out this way?   I don’t ask you that question to mock you or shame you.  I ask you because I so badly want this kind of cry of the heart for you and me and everyone here.  Hannah had the very real sense that God was completely other, completely wonderful, completely beautiful, completely holy, and she also had the very real sense and resting assurance that because God is so wonderfully beautiful and different, her life can rest in Him – hence God is the rock of her salvation.

You might hear that and say, “Well, Gordon it is easy for Hannah to say that.  She got what she wanted.   I’ve been struggling for years for what I want and God has never given it to me, so though I believe in Jesus and have my sins forgiven.  So, no I’ve never or at least not recently said ‘There is none like God.  There is none beside Him in my heart.’”  That’s the real issue for all of us isn’t it?  Will we be happy?   Will we be content?   Will we find great joy even if we don’t get what we want?

Well, what does Hannah emphasize here?  That God is the one who will give you what you want?   No she emphasizes that there is no one holy like God.  There is no one that is that is perfect and righteous like God.  She could have spoken of His great power and how He is the only one that can open and close a womb, and she would have been correct, but that is not the focus of her prayer here.  What comforts Hannah is God’s holiness.  You might wonder, “How is that possible?”   How does God’s holiness comfort and help?

Let me explain it in this way – we have gotten used to God’s holiness.  God’s holiness is like Bumblebee from the Transformers the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz.  At first we were scared of it but now God’s holiness like a friendly pet who helps us out.  But this is not the picture of God’s holiness we should have.  God’s holiness is His absolute perfection and goodness that separates Him from all evil.  Yet God’s compassion moved Him to send His perfect son to pay the penalty for sin so that those who have faith in Jesus can now share in the righteousness and holiness of Jesus and have fellowship with the father.

I’m afraid that we grow so accustomed to this truth that we forget its immensity.  Our hearts begin to want lesser goods because God has granted us the greater good of salvation.   Without actually voicing it, we are tempted to live our lives thinking, “Well if God can forgive me and save me, then surely he will give me the things I want, the desires of my heart.  And though God obviously and quite clearly can give you the desires of the heart, God still gives and grants according to the counsel of His holy will. God gives only that which is consistent with His holiness and the giving of Him glory.

So Hannah celebrates that by saying that God’s holiness is what gives her strength.  God’s holiness is what encourages her.  It is like saying, “Perfect holy God, would you listen to me?   Would you incline your ear to me?   That you, Holy God would listen to me a sinner is what strengthens me.  ‘The fact that you God would seek me out and repair my relationship with you, that you would pity me when in need, that is my strength.

That attitude should give your life the proper perspective.  That helps us to find contentment in whatever we have or don’t have because our perfect holy God has cared for enough to restore our relationship and hear our cries.  This is the attitude of Paul in Philippians 3:7 when he says

Philippians 3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

Paul says, I am not holy because of anything I’ve done.  I’m holy because of what God has done in Jesus for me.  Because of that anything else I might gain is nothing because I have the greatest thing that I could ever hope for: I have Jesus’ holiness and a restored relationship with God.  This is humbling language and it causes Hannah to cry out in verse 3.

3 Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.

Last week we talked about the temptation we have to say, “I’m going to do this.  I’m not going to do that.  I have my plans and it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks.”  And sometimes our plans are couched in a more supposed Godly language.  We say, “Surely God will give me the desires of my heart.  Why would He give me this desire if He didn’t want me to have it?”   That of course assumes our desires are given to us by God which is not always the truth.

That type of language is incredibly arrogant, and Hannah sings of silencing such arrogance before a holy God.  Arrogance is assuming anything about our selves (either action or thought) apart from our dependence of  God.  As Paul says, once you professed faith in Jesus Christ, “Now for you to live is Christ; to die is gain.”   The life of faith in Jesus is the giving over of yourself in service of Jesus Christ because when we give ourselves away, then we find true joy and happiness.   That is what living is.  Assuming otherwise is arrogant.  Why? Because God alone is wise and God alone is holy.

God is a God of knowledge which means He decrees and ordains all things wisely according to His own wisdom.  Have you ever noticed that we rarely see a connection between wisdom and holiness?   If you google search it all you get is quotes from the Dalai Lama.  But that is no help because all you will find there is human wisdom.  But human wisdom and God’s holiness are always at odds with each other.

As 2 Corinthians 1 says 12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with holiness and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.

God’s holiness is always connected to God’s wisdom.  So Hannah celebrated that God was holy, that God was wise, and therefore God is perfect in all His actions.  If God decided to make Hannah suffer at the hands of bitter rival, and if God caused Hannah to suffer and wait for a child, then so be it because she knew that God was holy and wise in everything that He does.  Even if Hannah’s or your heart cries out to God, your waiting to understand God’s holiness and wisdom does not make God any less holy or wise.  If you wait in patience with great love and respect for God, then what happens is you become more wise, more holy and ultimately strengthened as your wait.   Look at verse 4.
4 The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble bind on strength.

In faith, in trusting a holy and wise God, the mighty, the proud and the strong will be broken and brought low because pride and self-sufficiency stand opposed to God.  But the feeble, those that recognize their complete dependence on a holy and wise God are ultimately lifted up and find strength because they gather it from the one true place that it can be found: the God of all wisdom, might, and holiness.  What I want all of us to do right now and as we go forward is to celebrate God’s holiness and wisdom, and I want it to produce in us a lifestyle and a culture of worship.   We celebrate that we are weak and needy and that God is the only hope that we have to be strengthened.  Worship God because He is holy and see yourself strengthened, lifted up and encouraged.

  • 1 Chronicles 16:10 Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord
  • Psalms 99:5 Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his footstool; for he is holy.

What I’m hoping is that we won’t shy away from being weak or pretend that we have it all together but that in the creating of community that we desire to do at ce groups, fight club and project runway, we’ll be honest and vulnerable and share both the struggle to be weak and the joy of having an all holy, all wise God strengthen us as we worship him.  That way when you engage your neighbors or the police, or the EMS or Hayes Place or your coworkers, you don’t have to pretend to have it all together.  You don’t have to pretend that you no longer have any needs because you met Jesus.  Instead you can tell your neighbors and other folks that you serve, “I’m as needy as you, I’m as messed up as you, I’m as confused as you and I’m as sick as you, but I have found that God alone in Jesus Christ is wise and holy.  The fact that God is so different is what strengthens me and so as I trust that God is wise and holy and different than me, I’m encouraged and strengthened as I either wait for Him to answer my prayer or I wait for him to change my heart and my desires.

But I am not left alone.  I’m strengthened as I trust in God – come join me and the rest of the messed up people at SK as we worship this holy wise God who sent his holy and perfect son Jesus to love and care for us.  And you know what?  Garner and this places that you live hate this message.   It is the bad news of the good news.  The fact that you are here may mean you love it or it may mean you are struggling with it, but it is the Gospel.  It is however the message that will take root in our community if we ask God to make it take root in us.  None of us should expect the gospel to transform any one else if it is not transforming already transforming us.  Thankfully, our hope and our strength is that our Holy God seeks to love us and transform us through the beautiful work of His Son, Jesus Christ.

September 29, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

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.

September 16, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Grace to the Humble – SK Service Preview for 080810

When God answers Hannah’s prayer and gifts her with a child after years of barreness, there is much more going on than the mere asking for and answering of prayer.  As Dale Davis says in his wonderful commentary on 1 Samuel,

“This is no piddly affair – this is a manifestation of the way God rules and will bring his kingdom.  Hannah’s relief is a sample of the way God works and of the way he will work when he brings his kingdom in its fullness.   The saving help God gave Hannah is a foretaste, a scale-model demonstration of how God will do it when he does it in grand style…every time God lifts you out of the miry bog and sets your feet upon a rock is a sample of the coming of the kingdom of God, a down payment of the full deliverance, the macro-salvation, that will be yours at last.”

The story of Hannah and the subsequent giving away for her son Samuel is a beautiful picture of what God does for all those who have faith in Jesus.  He rescues us.  This week, at SK, we are going to continue looking at the song that Hannah sings as she present her son Samuel to the ministry.  We are going to see a wonderfully in-control God pouring our blessings on the humble and opposing the proud, and in it, I hope we can all find ourselves as the humble beautiful a wonderfully, gracious God.

If you would like to worship with us at SK, we meet each Sunday at 10:30am, and you can find directions to our space here.

August 6, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

SK Service Preview for 07/25/10

The questions being asked in our day are surprising.  Yes, folks want to know about the BP Oil Spill leak and what’s going to be done about that, yes, folks want to know about the economy, and yes, folks are dying to find out how good the Dallas Cowboys are going to be this year (maybe that’s just me).

But from the conversations that I’ve had this week, others questions are taking center stage in people’s hearts and minds.  Questions like:

“Am I in the career that God would have for me?”

“Is it possible to do what I enjoy and still please God?”

“What does it mean for my family to serve God?”

“Am I unhappy because I missed out on what God would have me do?”

Despite all that is going on with the economy and other pressing national events, most everyone’s questions for me this week have centered on living the life that God would have for His people.  Perhaps the instability of finances and jobs has caused people to wonder, but who knows?  No matter the motivation, this is definitely a time for people to ask God lots of questions.

This week at Sovereign King, we are going to continue our “Transition” series from 1 Samuel.  In the passage, we are going to see Hannah keep her vow and send her son, Samuel, into priesthood.  In examining this incredible act, we get to ask all the same questions from above and hopefully find some answers as we examine just what right God has on people’s lives.

If you would like to join SK for worship, we meet each Sunday at 10:30am, and you can find directions to our space at http://www.sovereignkingpca.net/1.2.html.

July 23, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

SK Worship Preview for 071810

So, we are in our new space.  We have had our grand opening.  There are still new things to come as the gazillion details necessary for the upcoming Sunday School launch are under way, but the big push to get in new building has come and gone.  What do we do now?

We live the life of the church.

Without hyperbole, I think the “Transition” sermon series has the potential to transform us in ways that we have never seen as a church.  In it, we will see faithful and unfaithful people walking before God in practical issues of faith like desperation, bareness, government, leadership, parenting, worship.  1 Samuel is like almost no other book of scripture in that way.

For example, this Sunday (11/18), we are to see a lonely, desperate woman cry out to God because the one thing she feels will make her happy is beyond her grasp.  How many of us can relate to seeing what we need or want just beyond our grasp?  How many of us wonder what is going on in the mind of God when we struggle like that?  This Sunday, we get to see both the heart of a person in need and the responsive heart of God to that person.  Opportunities like that are very real, very practical, and very much needed.  It is the kind of opportunity we shouldn’t squander and one we should share by inviting others to worship with us.

Simultaneously, the remainder of SK’s church life is taking shape as the new CE Groups are launching this week and next.  We just served the EMS this week by serving them dinner, and new opportunities to serve them, the GPD, and Hayes Place are on the horizon.

I hope to see you all again this Sunday as we gather, worship, and find ourselves transformed.  See you then.

If you would like to worship with us, we meet each Sunday at 10:30am, and you can find directions to our space at http://www.sovereignkingpca.net/1.2.html.

July 16, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Hope for the Hopeless – 1 Samuel 1:-18

In my brief seven years as a pastor, I’ve already been involved with or visited what would seem to be like a myriad hopeless situations.  As police chaplain, I’ve had to inform a 10 year boy that his mother had passed away.  I’ve held the hand of an 80 year old man as his wife of 50 plus years died.  I’ve prayed with folks as they watched their marriage come to an end.  I’ve visited Holly Hill Mental hospital to help folks who are struggling with addiction and suicide.  I’ve preached funerals and prayed with people whose parents have passed away.  I’ve attempted to encourage people who have lost jobs and seen dreams dashed.

Knowing the willingness of Sovereign King Church to be involved in the lives of others at the most difficult levels of pain and hurt, many of you have encountered similar and perhaps even more hurtful and discouraging situations.  In the moments of our grief, it can feel incredibly hopeless.  Our hearts cry out, “What now? Or What else?” Sometimes, we cry out,  “Why God, why?”

Often we meet our grief with a variety of things to soothe our hearts and minds.  We’ll lose ourselves in mindless television.  We’ll eat our troubles away.  We’ll skip eating all together.  We’ll drink until we don’t have to think about what bothers us.  Every now and then we handle these situations healthfully.  We’ll go running or exercise to burn off the stress.  We’ll spend time in prayer or study of the scriptures or find comfort in the community of the church.

You know, if in some way, we don’t meet the every changing difficulties of life with the never changing truths of scripture, hopelessness is the appropriate response.  Vague ideas of who God is just don’t get it done.  Expressions like, “God never closes a door without opening a window” are shallow and ineffective aside from being confusing.  I don’t even know what that one means.  If you are struggling with hope or the lack thereof, the firm foundational truths of who God is, what He has done, and what He promises to do are what the heart needs more than anything else.

In light of those truths, we are embarking on a brand new series today on the book of 1 Samuel entitled “Transitions” – in it, we are going to see folks going through some of the most difficult challenges any human beings have ever gone through.  There we will discover that their need for hope is the same as our need for hope.  With that in mind, let’s answer this Big Picture Question:

Big Picture Question:  How is God hope for the hopeless?

1 Samuel 1:1 There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite. 2 He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

In this amazing complex couple of sentences, we meet a man named Elkanah.  He lived in the hill country of Ephraim with a known genealogy and family history.  Many assume he had a decent amount of wealth.  More than likely, Elkanah was financially doing okay.  We have no idea whether he was rich or not, but he was doing well enough to afford two wives.  So we immediately know something Elkanah:  he was smart enough to make a decent amount of money, but not smart enough to know that its hard enough to keep one wife happy, much less two.

Nevertheless, this was a period of time, where many men would take multiple wives. Elkanah’s first wife was named Hannah and she was barren meaning she had no children.  His other wife was Peninnah had lots of children.  Now, I can imagine this family dynamic was just a flat out disaster.  In a culture where having children, leaving a legacy to live beyond your years, and basically finding your value in your family, you can imagine Hannah had a tough go of it.

First of all, bareness hurts.  Wrestling with the fact that you may never have or not have any more children can be crushing.  If the desire of your heart is to have children, and you can’t, your heart feels deflated.  Amy and I went through that for over two years, and I know many of you have and are struggling with the hopeless feelings that come from wanting children and not being able to have them.

Children are a good desire.  Not being able to have them is confusing and painful.  Sometimes spouses aren’t on the same page with one wanting kids and another not.  Lots of issues like faith, finances, and feasibility come into play, but lying in bed at night, none of these things matter when you want a child.  For Hannah, she lived with a daily reminder of her struggles as her husband had children but with another woman.  She had to look at those kids, that woman, and her husband playing with someone else’s children every day, and I imagine her heart hurt in ways that are hard to understand unless you have experienced bareness.

Fortunately, bareness is a life circumstance used by God to display and demonstrate His power and grace.  Think about all the examples of God displaying His power and grace through women by overcoming their inability to have children.

  • Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was barren and advanced in age when God made the promise to make a people for Himself from her children.   Gen 11:30
  • Rebekah had to wait 20 years before she could have children.  Gen 25
  • Rachel was barren in Gen 29 but God opened her womb in Gen 30
  • Samson’s mother Manoah was barren for years until God moved in her life so that she might have a son Judges 13.
  • Elizabeth was old and childless when God blessed her with the birth of John the Baptist Luke 1.

“Barren women seem to be God’s instruments in raising up key figures in the history of redemption, whether the promised seed (Isaac), the father of Israel (Jacob), saviors or preservers of Israel (Joseph, Samson, Samuel), or the forerunner of the King (John the Baptist).”  Dale Davis

Bareness, and really, any other helplessness that we feel is only met and assuaged as we experience the hope and presence of God.  Our hopelessness, our inabilities, appear at the moment to be the thing that makes life for us impossible or intolerable whether that hopelessness comes from being barren, divorced, unemployed, etc.  If you have ever or are presently struggling with hopelessness, then you share a fellowship with Hannah.  One author calls that the Fellowship of Bareness.

“And it is frequently in this fellowship that new chapters in Yahweh’s history with His people begin – begin with nothing.  God’s tendency is to make our total inability His starting point.  Our hopelessness and our helplessness are no barrier to His work.  Indeed our utter incapacity is often the prop He delights to use for His next act.  This matter goes beyond the particular situations of biblical barren women.  We are facing one of the principles of Yahweh’s modus operandi.  When His people are without strength, without resources, without hope, without human gimmicks – then He loves to stretch forth His hand from heaven.  Once we see where God often begins we will understand how we may be encouraged.”  Dale Davis

This is where we often go wrong don’t we?  We are hopeless and helpless.  We either run towards the wonderfully gracious care of our Father in heaven or we run away from Him because we feel that He has not heard our cries.  Some of you, very much so, right now, are in that situation.  You feel that you are centrally lacking something that you need or so desperately want.  You will either trust God in this moment and find hope, or you will trust yourself and continually find yourself hopeless.  Let’s see what happens with Hannah.

3 Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord.

It was Elkanah’s practice to go worship and sacrifice to the Lord of Hosts at Shiloh once every year.  This is our first interaction with the title “Lord of Hosts” in scripture.  The title implies the Lord over many as in the Lord over a host of angels or a large military.  It is a title to display the unfathomable and limitless power and riches of Yahweh.  This is the God to whom Elkanah would worship and sacrifice each year.  Despite being a wealthy man with two wives, he was a man who was without children by the wife he so dearly loved.

Working at the sanctuary in Shiloh are two central characters for us in the beginning of the book of I Samuel:  the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the Lord.  We will learn a great deal about them, but let’s allow the scriptures to tell that story as we get there.  Our story progresses in verse 4.

4 On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb.

The sacrifice that Elkanah would offer each year was more than likely a peace offering as sacrifices for the atonement of sin would happen in more central places for the people of God and not in more remote areas like Shiloh.  All sacrifices in some way were an offering for the forgiveness of sin but a peace offering was really more of an offering of thanks and asking for the blessing and favor of God to fall on a particular person.  So after the sacrifice was made, the remaining parts of the animal would be divided up to be eaten by the priests and the family who offered the sacrifice.  So Elkanah would give the prerequisite portions to Hophni and Phinehas and then give a portion to Peninnah and his children through her for them to eat.  This was a meal of blessing that celebrated the peace of God and His provision and protection resting up on all that ate it.

Then we see something incredibly heartwarming.  In the culture of that day, when Elkanah discovered that his wife Hannah was barren, he could have cast her aside as useless.   It wouldn’t have been biblical but it wouldn’t haven’t been shocking or out of place.  But instead of looking at Hannah with disdain because she could not provide him an heir, Elkanah looked at his wife with compassion.  He gives her twice the portion of the sacrificial meal that he gives Peninnah because he loves her and has compassion on her as the Lord has closed her womb.

Now as you can imagine, Peninnah has feelings as well.  It appears that Elkanah loves Hannah more than he loves Peninnah, so she decides to start treating Hannah terribly because she is tired of losing the best of her husband to another woman.

6 And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb.  7 So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat.

Now, no one enjoys being teased.  More than likely, at some point in time in your life though, someone has picked on you.  When I was in 6th and 7th grade, it was the worst.  I was the tiny, short kid with curly hair, bad teeth, and more mouth than brains.  Getting picked on was a day to day reality for me.  In some ways, that time of life toughened me up and it other ways it scarred me.  I went home early the last day of 6th grade because some kids run up behind me bulldogged my head into the ground.  When I woke from being knocked unconscious,   I stumbled to the office and just went home.  It was like that.

Some of you have gone through similar situations.  You have been picked on for being overweight or for having acne or being tall or short.  Some of you have been picked on for just having emotions being told to suck it up or quit being so sensitive.  Sometimes, these pains have come from loved ones, even parents, and those wounds cut deeper and last longer than most.  Whether you call it being teased or being bullied or whatever, some of out most lingering pains come from when people have made fun of us.  Hannah is going through that.  She is in incredible pain.  She wants to have a child with her husband, but she can’t.  When she couldn’t, he married another woman and had a gang of kids.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the new wife now provokes her and irritates her.  In her moment of greatest pain, she is being mocked and taunted by an uncaring woman who seems to have it all.  According the passage, this went on for years.  It’s one thing to be teased in a moment.  It is another thing to be mocked repeatedly year after year.  Hearts grow dim and hearts grow cold in times like that.

Like many people who have suffered as Hannah has, she got so upset, she quit eating.  Her depression was so great, the only thing she could do was weep.  Food was the furthest thing from her mind.  She was probably withering away and perhaps that explains why her husband brought her a double portion of the sacrifice.

Now before we go any further, let me say some things about Elkanah, her husband.  Elkanah is a paradox. On the one hand, he has shown himself to be a pretty caring dude in a culture that didn’t seem to have too many caring men.  But on the other hand, he is big dumb male as well.  So we gotta give him a little bit of the benefit of the doubt, but let’s just see what happens.

8 And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

Okay, let’s not forget everything what came before this passage.  Elkanah is his culture could have just discarded Hannah for being barren and unable to give him an heir.  It wouldn’t have been biblical, but it wouldn’t have been socially shocking either.  He loved Hannah and wanted her to be blessed.  He didn’t need an heir any more.  He had plenty from Peninnah.  What he wanted was for his grieving wife to be comforted and for that day and age, I say, “Good man, Elkanah.  You are far from perfect but a bit more upstanding than a lot of other dudes.

Having said that, however, the words that come out of Elkanah in verse 8 are pretty naïve and belie the fact that this guy just doesn’t understand the pain of his wife.  He asks her, “Hey, why the sad face?  Why are you crying?  Aren’t I just such an outstanding husband?  I mean I’m such a good husband, aren’t I better than ten sons?”

This comes from the man who married another woman when his wife was barren.  Elkanah, for all his good qualities, is clueless.  Yes, I’m sure that Hannah is very thankful that Elkanah didn’t cast her away when he discovered she was barren.  She is probably thankful that he doesn’t mock her like Peninnah does.  She is probably thankful that he cares and wants to comfort her when she cries.  But when the heart hurts, the heart hurts, and Hannah’s clearly hurt.   In many ways, the very thing that defined her as a woman in that day was just beyond her grasp.  The Lord had closed her womb.  She could not have children.  She was in love with her husband but more than likely felt incredibly inadequate because she couldn’t provide a child for him.  She had the pain of watching her husband woo another woman who apparently was as a fertile myrtle.  This woman was not compassionate but actually antagonistic towards her.  She would openly mock Hannah for her inability to have kids.  Hannah’s pain is an emotional pain that is so bad, she is at the point she doesn’t even eat any more.

Now, I have no desire for anyone among us to dredge up these kinds of feelings but there are some here that can relate to Hannah.  Perhaps, you can relate to the inability to have a child or the inability to have another child, and your body and soul just ache.  Perhaps, you can relate to feeling as if the whole world looks at you with the eyes of Peninnah, mocking you and insulting you.  Sometimes we just wonder if we have missed out on what we thought would make our lives fulfilling or enjoyable.  These things make us so discouraged and depressed that we can’t even eat.

Now, what we are going to see next week is that Hannah has not abandoned God in all of this pain though many people would have long ago.  She is going to get desperate enough to try to cut a deal with God, but she hasn’t abandoned him.  But we don’t want to get to that point just yet.  If we are going to see God move in amazing ways in this woman’s life, then we need to feel her depths of pain.  To truly understand what it means to have your needs met, then you must wrestle with helplessness.  We see that with Hannah.  She has no option or hope for a child outside of herself.  There are no options outside of God’s work and intervention.

We, however, have a hard time getting to that point.  It is hard in this day and age, as smart and accomplished, and prideful as we are all, to flat out, lay it out before God and say, “I can’t change this.  Without your help, with your intervention God, I am helpless and hopeless.”  But let me assure you of something that is going to be a continual theme for the next few sermons:

  • Faith in God begins where your ability ends.
  • Faith in God begins where your self-sufficiency ends.
  • Faith in God begins where your options end.

Contrary to popular belief, faith is not measured by how great of an act you perform.  Faith is measured by your understanding of how big a God you have.  Great acts of faith are the result of the great acts of God.  As our children’s bulletins will state, for us to have hope, just as Hannah had to have hope, we need two things:

  • The love to care that there is a problem.
  • The power to fix the problem.

The only place that is found is the person of Jesus Christ.  Hear these comforting words of hope from Hebrews 4

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.

Verse 14 reminds, us that Jesus is our great High Priest.  In the OT system, the High Priest would intercede between sinful men and women and the holy God.  Interceding means that the High Priest would act as a go between.  He would offer sacrifices for sin and he would plead to God for mercy.  Verse 14 tells us that our confession, our statement of faith and that which we hold to, is that God has sent His son, Jesus to be our High Priest.   God interceding for sinful and hopeless men and women to God.  The one who pleads your case before God the Father is the gracious, merciful, beautiful Jesus Christ.  Why is this hopeful?

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Jesus is sympathetic.  If you come to Him with pain, misery, and the need for mercy and hope, He offers it to you.  Jesus suffered in every way while here among us.  He was beaten, rejected, lied to, and spat upon.  He was homeless and at times penniless.   His best friends left Him, betrayed Him, and deserted Him.  He knows what it feels like to be alone.

And Jesus was tempted to sin in every way that you are tempted to sin.  But here is how He is different.  He lived obediently and triumphantly and that is your hope.  He was perfect and righteous, and He is still sympathetic to your needs.  Jesus does not disdain you in your sin and fear and hopelessness.  Jesus sympathizes with you and intercedes on your behalf to God.

16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Right now, each and every one of you in your hopeless, confused, desperate state of mind, draw near to the throne of God with your cries of praise and cries for help.  Don’t approach God in fear if you approach through Jesus Christ.  Approach confidently as loved sons and daughters to the throne of grace.  There you will receive all the mercy and grace that you need in your time of help and your time of hopelessness.

You have no other hope in this world except the man Jesus.  Rest in that hope today either for the first time or yet again.

July 12, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Transition – SK Service and Sermon Series Preview for 071110

“Transition” is the new sermon series that we are starting at Sovereign King Church this Sunday.  It will cover the book of 1 Samuel, and in it, we’ll see the people of God make the very difficult transition of living life under the rule of a king.  The book is a study in how people move towards or away from God depending upon the difficulty of their circumstances.

For SK, this is the perfect book for us to study right now.  This Sunday is the big launch of our new space.  As you may have heard already, our new worship facility is more than triple the size of our old building, and now we have plenty of room with an incredible nursery and great classrooms.  We can serve the city of Garner in much greater capacity with this building, so that’s a pretty huge transition for us.  We are also about to launch Sunday School and ordain new officers.

The times, they keep a changin’.

We, like many of you I imagine, need wisdom about handling transitions in peaceful, Godly ways.  I invite you to worship with us this Sunday as we peek into the lives of bunch of folks who learned what walking with God looked like in the midst of change.

We meet for worship each Sunday at 10:30am.  As a bonus, this week, coffee will be provided by Swift Creek Coffee of Garner.  You can find directions to our new space at by clicking http://www.sovereignkingpca.net/1.2.html.

July 9, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment