J. Gordon Duncan

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So Simple a Child Can Understand It – SK Service Preview for 012311

This week at SK, we are exploring a story from 1 Samuel where Samuel begins to step back from public ministry.  In it, we will be pursuing what it looks like to live the life with God with other people.  Samuel knew that if he was honoring God then he would live honorably among other people.  As a preview, I’ve included our children’s write up that is part of the children’s bulletin we create each week.  We hope to see you at SK this week.  You can find directions to our space here and our services begin at 10:30am.

Have you ever gotten into a fight or disagreement with your brother or sister?  Has one of your friends at school ever upset you?

Sometimes, when people make us mad or we yell at a friend, we want to run away and hide.  It just seems easier to be by our self.  One thing you should know about God is that He not only loves you but He also loves His church and the world.  Because of that, God commands us to obey Him and be like Him with other people.  God’s commands show us how to live with our family, friends, kids at school, and people at church.

In the book of 1 Samuel, Samuel did a great job obeying God, and he did a great job loving other people.  When he got old, he wanted to make sure that he had been honest to everyone.  So he asked all of God’s people, “Have I been honest?  Have I stolen anything from you?  If I did anything sinful, what can I do to repay you?  How can I make it right?”

Samuel knew that God wants us to love and serve others.  He knew that how we treat other people and how we speak to them shows how much we love God.  When we treat other people the way the Bible tells us to, it teaches them about God.

Jesus loved and served us by dying on the cross, and after that, the church grew and grew.  Jesus once said that when His people obey Him it catches on.  Other people begin to love God and serve others because you do.  In Matthew 13, Jesus said your obedience is just like yeast which helps a lump of flour turn into delicious bread.

Samuel knew how important believing and serving God was.  God helped him to obey and serve.  Jesus showed us how to believe and serve God too.

January 21, 2011 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

Start of Something New – SK Sunday Preview for 081510

This is a pivotal weekend for us at Sovereign King.  We’ve moved into our facility.  We’ve upfitted our classrooms.  We’ve made the adjustments.  Now, we get to begin maximizing the use of our space.

This Sunday at 9:30am, we will launch our Sunday School Program.  We will be running three programs for our children and one class for the older youth/adults.  As these grow, we hope to offer even more classes next quarter.  SK wanted to have breakout teaching times like this in the past, but we never had the facilities.  Now we do.  Please visit and check out the classes.  So much work has been done to make everything go smoothly.  We think you and your children will enjoy yourself.  For more info, you can check out http://wp.me/pBHzf-r2 or call 919-412-8161.

We are also continuing our 1 Samuel series entitled “Transitions” – this week we are finishing up a study of the song that Hannah sung as she gave her son Samuel into the priesthood.  We are going to hear her speak about God guarding the feet of His children, defending them against their enemies, and ultimately the lifting up and the exaltation of His son, Jesus Christ.

Also, don’t forget, next week is our big Welcome to the Neighborhood Hot Dog cookout.  I can’t wait to see all of you guys then.

August 13, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Let’s Make a Deal – 1 Samuel 1:9-20

Nowhere in scripture, does God ask you to prove your faith to Him.  You are not asked to do some heroic act.  You are not commanded to undertake some gargantuan effort.  God does not ask you to cut a deal with Him in order to get your prayers answered.  As we mentioned last week, faith in God is measured in faith in God the person, not in you the person.  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 just the result of the great acts of God

We receive the clearest definition of what faith is in the book of Hebrews 11:1-2.  Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation.  What follows that verse is often called the Hebrews Hall of Faith.  It lists ordinary people of great faith in the OT.  For example, Abraham is commended for his faith in leaving his homeland and trusting God for a son, Moses is commended for leading the people of God out of slavery in Egypt, and Gideon, David, and Samuel are commended as well.

Now you may hear these things, and say, “Hey Gordon, I thought you said faith is not measured in great acts done for God?  Isn’t that what these folks are commended for?”  At first glance you might say so, but the end of Hebrews 11 makes it clear why these believers are being commended.

39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us.

The people in Hebrews 11 are commended for their faith in a Savior yet to come.  They did all of those things without fully understanding the completed work of Jesus Christ on the cross for the forgiveness of their sins.  They had great faith in both what God has done AND what He promised to do.  That is what fueled their obedience and great work.

When our hearts struggle with having this great faith, right or wrong, we begin to think about God giving us what we want.  We think, “If I have enough faith will God answer my prayer?”  Those thoughts center around the idea of God’s favor falling on us.  Our minds and hearts wonder, “If I’m in God’s favor, then God will help me get out of debt, pay off my bills, get healthy, lose weight, get a job, quit looking at porn etc.”

Unfortunately, this is not what either faith or the Lord’s Favor means when we examine scripture.  What we are going to do this week is examine a lonely, desperate woman cut a deal with God.  In looking at it, we are going to see some things we should imitate and some things we shouldn’t.  With that in mind, let’s ask this Big Picture Question:

Big Picture Question:  What does it mean to find the Lord’s Favor?

I Samuel 1:9 After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. 10 She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. 11 And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”

This passage comes right after Hannah’s husband, Elkanah, offered a peace offering to God at Shiloh.  Once done, Elkanah gave the required amount of the sacrifice to the priests to eat, then he gave another portion to his wife, Peninnah, and her children, then he gave a double portion of the food to Hannah because she was barren and he wanted her to be blessed.  After this, Hannah is distressed.  She just can’t take any more.  She has been mocked by Peninnah for her inability to have children.  Elkanah kindly but quite naively tried to comfort her but to no avail.  She just can’t take it anymore.  She leaves the dinner and goes outside.  Eli, the priest, the father of Hophni and Phinehas, see her walking out and takes notice of this woman who would leave the family dinner to wander alone.

Imagine Hannah’s heart and imagine the emotions that she might be feeling right now.  Perhaps you can relate.  Maybe you have wanted something so badly or perhaps you have felt incomplete because you think you are lacking some good thing.  This is where Hannah is, and she has been this way for years.  She starts weeping and praying bitterly.  In her desperation and pain, she comes up with an idea:  she’ll make a vow.  She’ll cut a deal with God.   Here it is.   She prays to the Lord of Hosts and says, “I am your servant.  If you will see my affliction and not forget me, and if you’ll give me a son then I will give him back to you.  In fact, no razor will ever touch his head.”

Now what she is vowing is called a Nazirite Vow.  Numbers 6 details what these look like, but the idea is to dedicate a child to be a priest of the Lord.  Part of that dedication is that they will not cut their hair, they will not drink anything, whether grape juice or wine, from a grape vine and a few other things.  This is the same vow that apparently John the Baptist took.  Hannah is promising to send this son into the priesthood.

Now we should highlight a couple of things about her vow.  Note who she is praying to:  the Lord of Hosts.  We mentioned this particular name of God last week.   The Lord of Hosts is a title of God that speaks to God’s absolute adequacy and power.  It gives the idea of the Lord of great riches or the Lord of a vast army of angels or the Lord over a giant military.  Is anyone noticing a contradiction or maybe an irony here?  Hannah is praying to the all adequate and all powerful God, and to sweeten her deal, she offers the God of all power and all sufficiency, the God who lacks nothing, she is offering Him something if He will answer her prayer.  Hannah is offering her child back to God.  She is bargaining with the Lord of Hosts

Now, here is the problem.  In principle, every gift given from God is to be returned to God.  Jesus told a parable to emphasize this point:  the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25.  In that parable, the master gives 3 stewards or servants some money to take care of while He is gone.  The first servant invests in wisely and gives the master a return on His money as well as the second servant.  But the third servant was scared of His master and of losing the money, so He just hid it.  That servant is rebuked by the master and the master calls that servant worthless because He didn’t see Himself as one entrusted with the masters money.  The point is that everything you have is God’s.  He has entrusted you with the stewardship of all of those things whether it be your money, your house, your car, or your children.  And there is nothing of which you should ask of God that you do not intend to then return to God in use to the glory of God and the advancement of the Kingdom of God.

And here is another problem with bargaining with God:  you have nothing He needs.  God is all-sufficient lacking no good thing.  God is not in this situation thinking, “You know Eli, Hophni and Phinehas are not really getting it done as priest.  What I really need is someone new.  What was that?  Hannah you’ll offer me your son?  Hey, I could make this work.  There is no bargaining with God.  Anything you could offer to God, He already claims as His possession.  You think you have made some sacrifice by saying you will give something to God or do something to God when the life of faith is already living and doing and the giving of all things to God in thankful praise of His merciful grace poured out to you.  You give everything to God when you profess faith in Jesus Christ.

Folks, don’t get me wrong.  Hannah is a great women of faith but not because she was willing to offer her child back to God.  Something you have, want, acquire or hope for is to be God’s anyway.  Hannah is a great woman of God because she knows that the only hope she has is the Lord of Hosts.  He cares for her and hears her cry.  That is the Lord’s favor – not bargaining with God to convince Him what you want.  Being in a relationship with God where He cares for you and hears your cries is being in the Lord’s favor.  Don’t’ be fooled into thinking that you have a popularity meter with God and once you’ve pushed it from “really angry” to “really happy” you are in His favor.  If you have a relationship with God and your sins are forgiven by the work of Jesus Christ, you are in God’s favor.

Now, while Hannah is pouring her heart out to God, Eli has watching kinda creepily all along.  Look at verse 12

12 As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. 14 And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.”

As Hannah was praying, Eli was watching her.  Hannah was praying silently, but in her grief she was mouthing the words that she was saying.  Basically, praying quietly.  Eli jumps to the conclusion that she is a drunk woman and rebukes her.  He tells her, “How long you going to be drunk, girl?  Put away that wine.”  Now, why would Eli think that she was drunk?  Honestly, I think Eli’s assumption is in part because he is not the sharpest tool in the woodshed, but there is some reasoning behind his thinking.  The sacrificial meals that Elkanah and his family were enjoying surrounding the Peace Offerings given to the Lord of Hosts generally included wine with the sacrificial meat.  More than likely, this is not the first time Eli, the Priest of the Lord, had to rebuke someone for getting drunk after the sacrificial meal.  This happened in that day and it happened in the meals surrounding the Lord’s Supper, and Paul rebuked folks in 1 Corinthians 11 for getting drunk then too.

But I read this and I think, Poor Hannah:  her husband is clueless, her husband’s other wife is merciless, and her pastor thinks she is a lush.

15 But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. 16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.”

Hannah cries, “No, no, no, no, no, no.  I am not drunk; I am troubled in spirit.  I have not been pouring wine down my gullet all night long; I’ve been pouring my heart out to God.  She begs of Eli, “Please don’t think I’m a drunk and a worthless woman.  I’m just overwhelmed with anxiety.”  Hannah is not eating remember.  She has been so depressed that she hasn’t had been eating or drinking anything at all.  Eli is just too quick to judge and he doesn’t give the benefit of grace or the judgment of charity.  He assumes sin.  Maybe this a common occurrence from the folks in Shiloh and when we take a better look at the ministries of Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas, we’ll see that they are not very discerning priests anyway.  But once again, we are called to have compassion for Hannah.  She feels as if God, her household, her pastor, and pretty much every other person in the world is against her.

17 Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” 18 And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.

Eli finally gets the big picture.  Instead of rebuking Hannah, he pronounces a blessing.  He tells her to go in peace and then tells her that the God of Israel will answer her prayers.  How can Eli do this?  Apparently, in addition to be a Priest of the Lord, Eli was used by God at this point and time to be a prophet.  He tells her that everything that she has hope and prayed for is going to be granted by God.  Hannah, by faith, immediately believed Eli’s announcement.  By saying, “Let your servant find favor,” she is saying basically, “I hope and pray you are right.”  She believed it though because for the first time in who knows how long, she goes away, gets a big kosher burger, and her countenance is lifted.

Hannah walked away with real hope for the first time in a long time.  Can you imagine how she might be feeling?  She probably sat down at the table to have Peninnah, her husband’s fertile myrtle second wife jeer and sneer at her, but it didn’t matter.  She could, I don’t know, rest for the first time in a long time.  As excited as she was about having a child, I’m sure it was just as encouraging to know that God heard her and cared.  That’s part of the struggle when we have prayed for the same thing over and over isn’t it?  Even if you are not praying, but just achingly wanting something to change, it would be comforting to know that you were heard and genuinely cared for.

Right now, I imagine some of you feel unheard or maybe even ignored.  I had a conversation the other day with someone who was just flat out struggling.  Pretty much every area of life was a mess:  work, home, health, etc.  This person’s thoughts weren’t about having every one of those things change.  That would be nice, but their pain was way beyond that.  The question in that person’s heart and mind was, “Who cares?  Who is listening?  Where is God in the midst of all this?”  And despite the fact that we all happily sang some songs to Jesus a few minutes ago, I bet many of you are at that exact same point right now.  Like last week, we call that the Fellowship of the Barren.  There are things that we need that we just seem to be going without.  Maybe you hear Hannah’s story and find hope or maybe you hear it and think, “There is just another person getting what they want while I don’t.”  Hang in there, let’s look at verse 19.

19 They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. 20 And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the Lord.”

The family gets up the next day, worships one more time before making the trip back home, and then they pack up the family truckster and head back to their house.  Elkanah and Hannah conceive a child, and between verses 19 and 20, we cover nine months of pregnancy.  I wonder how the family dynamic changed?  I wonder how Peninnah handled the news that Hannah was going to have a child?  We don’t really know, but this much is true:  Hannah and her faith are famously told of and spoken of in scripture, and we are later told that she ultimately had five children…and we never hear of Peninnah again.

Once Hannah’s son is born, she names Him Samuel.  Samuel can mean “offspring of God” and it can mean “name of God” but either is fitting because Hannah asked God for Him and the only way she was going to have any offspring was if God did it.  There was not way that Hannah could take credit for this blessing.  It came only from God.  So that leaves us with the thought:  should we make vows to God if we want or really need something?  Well scripture gives us two ways to view that.

  • Psalm 76:11 Make your vows to the Lord your God and perform them;
  • Matthew 5:34 I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

At first glance, this would seem to be an apparent contradiction, but upon further examination, its not.  You see, Psalm 76 is speaking of the declarative praises of God in the sanctuary, and those are called “vows” – you guys all just did that when you sang a moment ago.  The words you sang are vows to the Lord, and rightfully so, you are all called to live a life consistent with the praise you just sang.  That’s why we take the words we sing very seriously here.  Your words are promises and declarations to God.

In Matthew 5, Jesus is rebuking people who felt that the only time they had to keep their word was when they made a vow.  This is sorta the opposite of crossing your fingers.  People in that day were promising to do things, and when they didn’t keep their promises, they would just say, “Hey, I didn’t take a vow.”  Jesus is telling them to make every yes a yes and every no a no.  Speak truthfully in every word.  No, the great hope that you and I have for both the taking of vows and the gaining of God’s favor is that someone has already done both on our behalf.

Listen to the declarations that Jesus makes in John 5:30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.  Jesus has explains there His vowed to obey God and to obey God perfectly.  Jesus only did that which His Father wanted Him to do.  And in His keeping of this vow, He displays that He carries God’s blessing to tell us who He is.  Listen to verse 36.

36b For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me.

Jesus keeps His vow to obey the Father so that you may know who He is.  In agony, as Jesus sweat drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed once again, to be bolstered to remain faithful to that which He promised to do.  Matthew 26:39 My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.  Yet, in anguish, Jesus faithfully kept His vow of obedience bringing those who have faith in Him into His favor.  Jesus’ obedient life, and ultimately, His obedience to die on the cross on your behalf, ushers you into God’s favor.

Philippians 2:8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus’ enabling your dead heart and still tongue to cry out that He is lord is God’s favor poured out on you.  You see the favor God is equal to the mercy of God.  Psalm 119:58 I entreat your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise.  Psalm 106:4 Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people; help me when you save them,  Favor equals mercy.

And when Jesus was obedient in life and death, He earned God’s favor.  He faithfully obeyed and kept His vow on your behalf, and because of that, every blessing of Christ becomes your blessing.  Let me give you an example.  Remember when the scriptures describe Jesus’ early life?  Luke 2:52 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.  When you experience the love, grace, and faithfulness of God earned for you by Jesus, you are described in the exact same way.  Proverbs 3:3-4 Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.  4 So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.

Folks, if we ever think, “What have I got to do to get God to give me what I want?” we have left the service of God and entered into the foolish realm of trying to get God to serve us.  God will not serve you by capriciously giving you what you want.   He grants your prayers according to the mysteries of His will, and of that, I will not dare to speak.  You have been served though by Jesus Christ.  When you heart is gifted with faith, and you cry out to God just as Hannah did, for God to bestow His grace and mercy, then you walk in the favor of God.  Jesus faithfully keeps all vows while we are so poor at keeping any.  But Jesus’ faithful vow keeping in obedience to His Father’s will and obedience to death on the cross, ushers you, by faith, into God’s blessing and favor.

It is there that you live as a child of God.  Knowing that you cannot be blessed in any way greater than by being blessed with salvation and mercy, you can yet still ask God for His blessings for particular you need.  It is as that point that you merely ask the Lord of Hosts to bless you in His wisdom know that you are already blessed as Christ is blessed and there is no greater place of blessing to be known.

July 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment