God Answers Prayers
1 Samuel 1:8–20
1st & 2nd Samuel Lesson #012
May 5, 2015
“Father, we’re so grateful that we can come together this evening. We’re grateful for the grace that you have bestowed upon us, and for the grace that you have given in terms of sending Your Son Jesus Christ into human history that He might go to the cross and bear our sin penalty in our place that we might have eternal life by simply trusting in Him and Him alone.
Father, we are thankful for the heritage of this nation that has provided us with such wonderful freedoms; but today these freedoms are under assault as they have been for several decades, but today the intensity has grown quite a bit. We’re thankful for men in both the state legislature as well as the national legislature, who are seeking ways that they can shore up these laws that protect our freedoms, but they are being assaulted from many directions. We pray for each one of them – that You would strengthen them, that You would encourage them, and that they may not be discouraged because the battle is intense for them almost every day. Father, we are thankful for the fact that we have a state legislature here in Texas that is willing to back the clergy, to back churches, and to protect them legally, even though we believe that has already been done by the first amendment. Nevertheless, because there are many who wish to attack traditional Christian beliefs and to destroy the influence of Christianity and the church, we pray that You would cause this clergy protection bill to be received favorably in the legislature and voted on soon.
Father, we also pray for the Supreme Court – that You’d open their eyes to the extreme danger that will develop as a result of the legalization nationally of same sex marriage, the long-term and unintended consequences of such a decision, and that we need to continue to maintain the traditional historic view of marriage that was established at the original creation. Father, we pray Your protection upon this nation and that You would continue to raise up men and women who are oriented to the Word of God to provide leadership for us. We pray tonight as we study Your Word that we might be encouraged by the fact that You hear us, You listen to us, You respond to our prayers, and You are the God of the armies who is in control of all events in the history of this planet. We pray this in Christ’s name, Amen.”
As you know, because I stated this on Sunday, yesterday I was at the state legislature at the state senate where they held a hearing in the senate chamber itself. They had the committee hearing there over this senate bill identified as Senate Bill 2065. There’s a similar bill in the House that had already been reviewed in committee and had been voted out of committee, and I understand that since yesterday the senate bill has now been voted out of committee. And so we’re just waiting for it to get on the calendar so it can be voted on by the state legislature. You can make that a matter of prayer. I went there yesterday. There were approximately I would say 50 or 60 pastors that were there. They vastly outnumbered the opponents of the bill. There were three groups there. One group’s name I did not get. Another is sort of the Texas “Freedom” Coalition. Put “freedom” in quotes. It is a very liberal organization and also pro same-sex marriage, as is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
What I found interesting was that these three organizations all were fairly supportive of the bill, but they had some questions about some of the language in the bill just defining some terms that were in the bill that they thought were a little bit ambiguous. That was not something that I saw any red flags over. At this point in their discussions and their communications, they claim that they are not seeking to force churches or religious organizations to validate or to perform any marriages that go against their convictions. What I found interesting was the ACLU, the Texas ACLU representative there, even mentioned the fact that there are different views among different religious groups as to performing marriages for people who have been divorced, different other issues related to marriage and that they did not want to get into any of those issues. However, I don’t really believe them. I’ve been watching. Most of you, we’ve seen these reform groups that want to change America.
What they do is they start off with small steps, and they go one small step at a time; and that’s all they want to do – just achieve this next level in their agenda. As soon as they achieve that, then they want to go to another level. Back in the 70s when the anti-smoker campaign wanted to change things, the first thing they wanted to do was just have a non-smoking area in a restaurant. Never at that time would they have ever said, “Well, eventually what we want to do is prevent people who smoke from smoking in their own homes or smoking in their own apartments where their second-hand smoke might seep through the sheetrock or the ventilation system to the apartment next door; so we want to shut it all down.” I’m just using that as an example of how you have this incrementalism. We’ve seen the same thing in the whole issue with gay-rights, homosexual-rights, and same-sex marriage. They just take it one little step at a time, and as soon as they get one level accepted, then they move to the next level.
I believe that their ultimate agenda is to force church groups, religious groups to approve of their lifestyle, because ultimately I think that they are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. It is a moral rebellion on their part just as any sin is. We need to be careful. There are different consequences for different sins, but sin is sin. We don’t want to be legislating things that approve one person’s pet sins and disapproving someone else’s pet sins. That’s a violation of the First Amendment, but there are some people who wish to shred the First Amendment. Anyway, I gave my two minutes yesterday and I thought I would read those to you. I just started off briefly introducing myself. I said:
Madam Chairman and the Committee,
My name is Robert Dean and I am the pastor of West Houston Bible Church in Houston, Texas; and I am representing myself and my congregation of a little over a hundred people as well as several thousand who listen over the Internet, many of whom are in Texas. I also represent a group of several pastors who weren’t able to be here, who have congregations in places like Fredericksburg, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Rockwall, Lubbock, Brenham, Sugar Land, and a number of other places. I am speaking in support of Senate Bill 2065 and grateful to State Senator Craig Estes for authoring this critical and timely piece of legislation. As a member of the clergy, I cannot stress enough how concerned clergy are at the potential threat to their freedom. Not only evangelical leaders oppose same-sex marriage, but Orthodox Jewish rabbis oppose same-sex marriage; Muslim imams oppose same-sex marriage; Mormons oppose same-sex marriage, as many other religions do oppose same-sex marriage.
Almost four hundred years ago our forefathers left everything they knew, every comfort of home and family, and departed in ships bound for an unknown land as they fled religious persecution and government control of pulpits in England and Europe. The freedom of speech, the freedom to preach and teach and practice our religious beliefs without interference from government is a bedrock of American liberty and provides the moral compass and conscience of our nation. For a nation to be spiritually healthy the freedom to pursue one’s own spiritual convictions, and to be trained and educated within those religious traditions, is at the very core of the concept of liberty. Pastors must be free to teach the entirety of the Bible. Failure to protect the clergy from the intimidation of government, or those who disagree, will have a chilling effect on sincere expression of firmly held religious beliefs.
Recent events such as the attempt by the mayor of Houston to subpoena pastors’ sermons and the reported statement by the U.S. Solicitor General that if the U.S. Supreme Court sides in favor of same-sex marriage that the tax exempt status of many religious organizations will be lost, are truly distressing. I believe that in the event that the court rules in favor of same-sex marriage and grants the right of homosexual partners to marry, then an enormous cultural war will explode. Lawsuits against pastors in religious organizations will increase exponentially. Advocates of same-sex marriage will attempt to force religious institutions to validate and affirm their behavior while not allowing others the freedom to hold to differing views. I do not believe this bill has anything to do with judging the actions or behaviors of others, but protects the rights of clergy of a number of religions to continue to teach and to affirm historic truths, which have been at the core of their religious beliefs for thousands of years. Please vote to pass this bill out of committee.”
I heard just this afternoon that they did vote it out of committee. We need to pray that it will be on the calendar. Next battle. They’re going to be fast and furious, and I do believe that we will see overt persecution of Christians over this issue and other issues within the next decade. It is therefore more important than anything that we all prepare ourselves to handle this kind of adversity. With that in mind we need to look at 1 Samuel 1 (slide 2). Today I am going to hopefully get through the rest of this particular chapter. The focus here is on God’s answer to Hannah’s prayer. As we look at this, we’re reminded that the focus of this section, this opening section of 1 Samuel 1:1–8 is focusing on God’s gracious provision of a new leader in view of a change in Israel. It’s gracious because the focus is on this wonderful woman Hannah, whose name means grace. Her very name emphasizes the fact that this is focusing upon grace.
We’ve already looked at some of the issues underlying this passage dealing with her distress: the fact that she’s under persecution from her rival, the second wife, Peninnah, that she, as a result of this, is going to the Lord in prayer. It’s important to recognize that she has two options like we all have:
Option 1 is to solve our problems through the Word of God.
Option 2 is to handle our problems through human viewpoint.
Human viewpoint is always related to sin nature control. Human viewpoint is the thinking of the cosmic system. Often it appears to us to be common sense. Sometimes it appears to us to be the culturally acceptable thing to do because that’s what we were taught growing up. That’s how we can handle this particular kind of problem. But what we have to do is go to the Word of God guided by the Spirit of God and do what the Word of God says to do to handle these particular problems. In this culture at that time, the dominant religious view in Israel was the belief in the value of the fertility gods, Baal and Asherah. Many of the Jews had assimilated, or they had compromised, with the religions of the day. When they had a drought, when they had problems with productivity of their crops, when women faced barrenness, instead of going to God, Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, they would turn to the fertility religions. They would seek some sort of solution that was apart from exclusive dependence upon God.
Here we have a situation where Hannah turns to God. 1 Samuel 1:11 (slide 3), “Then she made a vow.” The family has gone annually up to the tabernacle, to the house of the Lord in Shiloh, and at this particular time she is weeping, and she has been ridiculed and reviled by her rival. She is having all of this distress, and she turns to the Lord. In 1 Samuel 1:10 we read that she was in “bitterness of soul.” That’s an idiom that we’ve seen. It doesn’t mean that she was bitter, but just that it is recognizing the distress, the sorrows, the heartaches of life. She prayed to the Lord, and she wept in anguish. Now there’s nothing wrong with going to the Lord and expressing our deepest sorrows and our anguish over the way things are, but if we stop there, we are just wallowing in self-pity. The focus, as we look at a group of psalms that focus on the lament of the author, a group of psalms that are classified as lament psalms, is that they always end up starting with the problem, focusing on the character of God, moving through that to understanding the divine solution to the problem, and concluding with a praise to God. We’ll see that in this particular chapter. The text starts off saying that she prays to the “Lord of hosts.”
In Hebrew, “Lord” as we see in English (slide 4), when it is uppercase like that, it refers to the sacred Tetragrammaton, the four letters. Tetragrammaton means “four letters”, YHWH. In the Hebrew language that’s a Yod Hey Vav Hey. And the ‘w’ is usually pronounced like a ‘V,’ and it is the name of God. Now in the original language in Hebrew they didn’t write with vowels. So much later in Jewish history, in order to preserve the pronunciation of letters, vowel points were added. They never wanted to pronounce the name of God. They would refer to God either as Adonai or as HaShem. They would take the Hebrew vowels, and in Adonai, they would put those under the consonants in the YHWH so when it was converted (a lot of this work was done in German) the ‘Y’ was converted to a ‘J,’ and then they added an ‘E’ class vowel; and the Hey was added, and the ‘O’ in Adonai. There’s an ‘A,’ but it is really an ‘E’ class vowel in English. You have ‘EO’ and then ‘A’. That would come out as JEHOVAH. Jehovah isn’t God’s name. Yahweh is God’s name. Jehovah has the consonants from one name and the vowels from another name, and those are put together. This occurred sometime in the Middle Ages. Technically, even though that has entered into many hymns, and we sing those, I’ll just credit those to poetic license.
Hannah uses the name Yahweh, which is significant here. It shows a high degree of her understanding of the character of God. But she doesn’t just address Him as Yahweh, she addresses Him as Yahweh Sabaoth, which means “the Lord of hosts.” That’s how it is translated. “Hosts” is a rather antiquated English word. It means “armies.” He is “Yahweh of the armies.” What’s interesting is that this phrase, this description of God as the “Yahweh of the armies” is used 235 times in the Old Testament (OT). The first time that it is used is right here in 1 Samuel 1:3 when talking about Elkanah. It says, “This man went up from his city yearly to worship and sacrifice to Yahweh of hosts in Shiloh.” Shiloh is the location of the tabernacle. That’s the first mention then – when Hannah prays, she addresses her prayer in 1 Samuel 1:11 to “the Lord of hosts.”
This says something about the doctrinal understanding and the doctrinal orientation within the family of Elkanah: that they had an accurate view of God. They haven’t assimilated to one of the pagan gods, and that they understand the sovereignty of God, that God is the Creator God, God is in control of the affairs of life, and God is the God of history. So when she prays, the fact that she addresses her prayer to “the Lord of the armies” is particularly significant. Another thing that I found significant is that this term for God is used ten times in the two books of Samuel. Remember, they were originally one book. Isn’t that interesting? The first time it is used is here; the last time it is used is in the context of the Davidic Covenant when Nathan tells David that God is granting him this covenant and David responds by praising “the Lord of hosts.” You have this as the bookends in between expressing the sovereignty of God over the history of Israel and establishing the nation of Israel. There’s an implication there by the author of Samuel to bring out this emphasis on the sovereign direction of God over the history of Israel.
1. The first thing we see in this prayer is that Hannah addresses God as Yahweh of the armies, “the Lord of the armies.” She shows that she recognizes His sovereignty, and she shows her understanding of her role as a servant of God within the cosmos, and that she is oriented to the plan of God.
2. The second thing we see in 1 Samuel 1:11 is that three times she refers to herself as God’s maidservant (slide 5). She is here to serve the Lord. She shows an attitude of humility and submission to the authority of God. This again reflects a high level of spiritual understanding on the part of Hannah.
3. The third thing we ought to note (slide 6) is that she says to God, “if You will indeed look on the affliction of your maidservant.” “If You will indeed look.”
Now that sounds pretty polite in English. In Hebrew she uses a specific kind of grammatical construction where a qal infinitive absolute is followed immediately by a qal perfect of the verb. In other words, you are repeating the verb. Now y’all have heard something related to this almost your entire Christian life. If you go over to Genesis 2:17 God says, the day that you eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil it is translated, “you shall surely die.” Now the grammatical structure is to take that same verb and to repeat it twice, first as an infinitive absolute, and second as a perfect tense verb. In Hebrew this doesn’t mean, as you’ve been taught, “dying you will die” because this would be translated, Lord, seeing You will see. This doesn’t make sense; and you have this phrase used a number of times throughout the book of Genesis and in numerous other books.
It is a way that the Hebrews emphasized the certainty or the intensity of an action. So that what God is saying in Genesis 2:17 is, “the day that you eat you are certainly definitely going to die.” It is talking about what happened that day, not a progress or process of dying and then another kind of death. That’s grammatically totally foreign to the concept, and it doesn’t fit any other use of the term. That’s what Hannah is saying here. What she is basically saying is, “Lord, you need to take a good hard look at what’s going on in my life. It is intense!” It expresses a passion, an intensity to God because she is in emotional distress because of all of the insults that she has been having to put up with, so she is saying, “Lord, just take a really hard look. Just pay attention to what’s going on with my life and if You will look this is what I’m going to do. She says, if You will just take a good hard look at the affliction of Your maidservant and remember her, then this is what I’m going to do.” Then she expresses her vow.
That is an important principle that Hannah makes there, stating that she feels very strongly about what’s going on in her life, the circumstances in her life and the distress that she feels. I think a lot of times people don’t express themselves this way in prayer. We want to be very polite with God and we think that when we are upset over something we must be wrong. “I’m out of line here. I’m feeling angry. I’m feeling distraught. I am in tremendous grief and sorrow and pain, but that’s inherently wrong.” We’ve seen in the last two or three weeks it’s not inherently wrong. What we do with it is wrong, and when we’re coming to the Lord and saying, “Lord, I am really upset. I’m mad at You. I’m mad at the circumstances. I don’t understand what is going on,” and that’s our starting point. That is where we are, and if you look at these psalms, some of the lament psalms for example, Psalms 3–5, Psalm 7, Psalm 9 and 10. In fact, except for Psalm 1, Psalm 6 and Psalm 8, the first ten psalms are all lament psalms except for those three. Psalms 13 and 14, Psalm 17, Psalm 22, Psalms 25–28—that’s just a starting point.
If you read those psalms you see how David pours out his anguish to God. You can read through the psalm and see as he focuses on where he is and then he focuses on the character of God, then he comes out the other end at the end of the psalm by expressing praise to God, confident that God is going to deliver him from these horrible circumstances. So there is nothing wrong with expressing your frustration to God, but don’t just stop there. It is not a pity party. It’s not just the opportunity to wallow in your sorrow and your grief and your depression, but to let that drive you to focus on the Person and the character of God.
Hannah expresses it here with this word, “affliction” (slide 7): “look on the affliction of Your maidservant.” The word there that is translated “affliction” is the noun oni, which basically means affliction or oppression or hardship. It is from the verb ana, which has that same idea, to afflict, to oppress or even to humble, and recognizes one of the effects that God wishes to produce in our life. God takes us through tests to bring us to a point of humility, to submit to His authority and recognize that He is bringing these adversities into our life for a purpose, to test us, to train us, and to strengthen us so that we can develop spiritual stability and strength to face greater challenges and greater difficulties.
God often uses affliction in the OT for different purposes. Sometimes He brings affliction into peoples’ lives in order to get their attention so that they will change course, so that they will turn back to God, so that they will confess their sins and continue to grow. This is how the word is used in reference to Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness. God was humbling Israel and this word ana is used there. The same kind of thing is used in reference to the exile, when God took Israel out of the land. It was to humble Israel. So this again is the use of this particular verb at that point. I believe this is what was going on in some degree with Hannah. It was bringing her to a point of complete dependence upon God as she went through this affliction, so that when it was time for her to pour her heart out to God, then God answered the prayer. It was clear that this was done in an act of total dependence upon God – only God could solve her problem, as only God can solve the problem of the Israelites at that time, and only God can solve the problems that we face in our lives.
This brings us to the doctrine of adversity testing, and just by way of introduction, these are a couple of passages (slide 8) in Psalm 119 about how it is the Word of God. The Word of God is mentioned in one way or another in every verse in Psalm 119. Psalm 119:50 and Psalm 119:92 use this word oni to express the role of affliction and the solution to affliction. In Psalm 119:50, “This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your Word has given me life.” It’s God’s Word that gives us life. It is, as I mentioned on Sunday, the memra of God, which is the spoken word that is relative to LOGOS, the Word of God, the LOGOS of God. Memra is often translated LOGOS when it comes from Hebrew into Greek. So it is a reference also to the living Word of God. Psalm 119:92, “Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction.” When we say the “law is my delight” that is something that develops. It is something that doesn’t happen just initially, but we have to read and study and memorize the Word of God. As we do that, we come to know it in a much fuller manner, and we fall in love with the Word of God. It becomes our delight and it is stored in our soul, and as a result of that, we can have life when we face affliction.
This is what David is saying here, “if the law had not been my delight then I would have perished in my affliction.” Let’s just have a brief summary of the doctrine of adversity. I’ve gone through this in a number of places. I’ll be going through this quite a bit in 1 Peter as we go through that, but I’ll just give us a brief reminder of these principles in 1 Samuel here.
Summary of the Doctrine of Adversity (slide 9)
1. Adversity (slide 10), as I talk about adversity and stress, is the outside pressure of either adversity (adverse circumstances), or prosperity, wherein stress is the inside pressure, the response to the outside pressure, the inside pressure in the soul.
Everyone faces both adversity and prosperity. Adversity can be the result of either external circumstances, or we can create a certain amount of adversity in our lives by giving into our own emotions. It can also be generated by our own thoughts within our own soul. In industry, whether you are in the computer industry or if you are working in metals or a number of other business senses, even in baking, they talk about stress testing. Stress testing is a term that is used to describe procedures where varying degrees of external pressures are put upon some system in order to determine the stability of those systems under extreme circumstances so you know that they are going to be stable in normal circumstances. This involves testing that goes beyond the normal everyday capacity for these systems, but in the stress testing it tries to take things to even the breaking point in order to reveal the strengths and the stability of a system.
When you talk about stress testing in the spiritual life, we’re talking about God taking us through various tests for a variety of reasons in order not to cause us to fail, but to reveal the strength that we have from the Word of God. Now where in the world are we going to go to support this? Well, one place we’re going to go is in James 1:2–4, where James says, “count it all blessings, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.” Those trials are these adversity tests when you encounter various trials because you know something, because you know that it’s the testing of your faith. There we have a Greek word that means to expose the value that is there. The testing of your faith produces endurance. That’s the idea. God takes us through stress tests in order to teach us, to train us, to discipline us. He takes us through stress tests so we get rid of the things that are superfluous distractions in our lives. He takes us through stress tests in order to show us that we’ve really learned a lot of doctrine and we can survive things that we didn’t think that we could survive.
1 Corinthians 10:13 says, there is no testing overtaken you except such as is common to man. In terms of categories, we all go through the same basic tests. Even the Lord Jesus Christ went through those tests. There is no testing overtaken you, except such as is common to man, but God is faithful who will with the testing make a way to escape.
That’s an awkward translation in English because people stop there and go, oh, good, whew! That’s it. I can get away from it. But read to the end of the verse. There is no testing overtaken you except such as is common to man, but God is faithful who will with the testing make a way to escape that you may be able to endure it. That’s the purpose. Not so you can get away from it, but so you can endure it, you can stay under the pressure, you can persevere under that pressure. That’s the idea. The outside pressure of adversity is going to expose what is on the inside. We’re going to face all kinds of circumstances in life, some are negative, some are positive and they can be an enormous distraction to our spiritual life. Let me tell you: having to take the time to drive to Austin to sit in the Senate Chamber, and fortunately, thank God, a lot of people were praying, and unlike when the House bill was up the week before, we didn’t have to sit there until six or seven o’clock at night. This bill was taken as a second matter of business of that committee.
The first bill was handled in about ten minutes and this was the second bill, and I was called about an hour into the testimony. That testimony probably went on for another two hours, but if that bill was taken at the end of the day (there were ten bills that were supposed to be looked at), if that was taken at four or five or six o’clock at night, it would have gone on until ten or eleven o’clock at night. So thankfully that didn’t take that long. But that was still a distraction. There were a lot of things I needed to do. There are a lot of things I can only do when I am sitting at my desk. There are a lot of things that I have to do in terms of studying, and some people would say that for pastors to get involved in things like that, that is a distraction. You know what? It is a distraction. But if we don’t stop the enemy when they are attacking, then we may not have the opportunity to have a ministry five or ten years down the road.
This is exactly what happened during the time of the American War for Independence. Pastors recognized if they were going to have effective ministries over the long haul, that they had to leave their pulpits, put on the uniform of the Continental Army, and they had to go lead the men in their congregations in battle against the British to secure liberties of the pulpit so that they could then go back to their pulpits and have a life of effective ministry. So sometimes in all of our lives there are things that come into our lives that are tests, that are distractions, and we have to recognize that yes, it’s a distraction, but I have to deal with it now so that the long-term goals can be accomplished. I’m afraid that more and more distractions of this type are going to be coming our way over the coming years. We have to keep our focus on the long-term endgame and not on the immediate requirements and the immediate needs of the ministry and the congregation.
2. In the second point we recognize that adversity is what circumstances of life do to you (slide 11). All kinds of circumstances affect us. We have shifts in our health. We have shifts in our financial situation. We have shifts in our job situation. We have shifts in our relationships. We have shifts in our education situation. All kinds of circumstances change, and that puts an external pressure upon us. But stress is what we do in response to those external pressures.
When things change, we have a choice as to how we are going to respond. Are we going to respond by getting upset, by getting angry, by getting frustrated, by pounding our fists and our heads against the wall or against somebody else, or are we going to learn to relax and trust God? That’s part of what we’re supposed to be learning in the tests. That is part of grace orientation. It is to develop a relaxed mental attitude. We recognize adversity as what is on the outside. We can’t control it. We can’t determine when it’s going to come. We’re going to have all kinds of different kinds of testing, some from people, some from systems like customer service. Nobody knows what I’m talking about there (laughter). We’ll just move on… bureaucracies. You have bureaucracies in every office. You have bureaucracies, and every time you get more than five people working together, you have some sort of bureaucratic situation you have to work through. So there is system testing. There is thought testing.
When circumstances come up, you’re listening to talk radio, you’re listening to the news and your thoughts just fly right out there in the wrong direction. So we have thought testing. Often this is related to lust patterns of the sin nature. Not just sexual lust, but you also have financial lust, or monetary lusts. You have power lusts. You have a lust for recognition or approbation or approval. There is all kinds of thought testing that goes on. There is prosperity testing. When things are going well, do we still trust the Lord?
And disaster testing. I had one man tell me years ago that when he was just starting his business and he was just barely able to pay his bills each month, that he had to listen to Bible class every day, read his Bible every day, pray every day because it forced him to depend upon the Lord. But when things got really good and things got really comfortable and he was making a lot of money, then it wasn’t so important to spend every day in the Word of God. It was a much more difficult test to stay focused on the Word.
Now stress is volitional. It is up to us how we respond. We’re supposed to respond by casting our care upon Him because He cares for us, 1 Peter 5:7. But what we often do is try to find some way to manipulate the circumstances to solve the problem through our own control rather than resting and relaxing in God and letting Him control. When we have a relaxed mental attitude, we can avoid the emotional reactions that intensify the fragmentation and stress in our own soul, and we can develop poise under pressure.
3. The third principle (slide 12) is that adversity is inevitable, but stress is optional.
We live in the devil’s world. This means that we’re surrounded by corruption. We’re surrounded by sin. We’re surrounded by the devil’s disciples who are seeking to control politics, business, economics, everything. They are trying to control how you run your business, how you run your lawnmower, everything is up to somebody else, and we have to learn how to respond to that. We live in a world that is subjected to failure, breakdown, disruption, death, and disaster. We have to learn to just trust in God.
4. The fourth principle (slide 13) is that stress is always the result of sin nature control.
You have two options in life: divine viewpoint or human viewpoint – doing it God’s way or my way. Those are the only options that we have in life. We have to learn to handle the adversity through these ten problem-solving spiritual skills. They are skills because we have to practice them. Let me just remind you:
- First of all when we are out of fellowship, nothing counts for eternity, so we have to confess sin. But it doesn’t stop there. We confess sin so that we can:
- Restore the walk by the Holy Spirit.
- Then we have to trust God. The basic fundamentals are the faith-rest drill. We mix our faith with the promises of God, where the Word of God is more real to us than the heartache, the difficulty, the pleasure of our experiences.
- Then we have to orient our thinking to the Bible. If you are going to orient your thinking to the Bible, don’t you think you need to know your Bible? You need to understand your Bible. Just reading the Bible from cover to cover gives you the basic building blocks. It’s not going to erect the structure of spiritual maturity, but without an understanding of the basic building blocks, you can’t get to the point where you really understand all the principles. So we have to be oriented to the Bible.
- And we have to be oriented to grace. We have to understand grace in every aspect of our life.
- This leads us to a personal sense of our eternal destiny. The more we grow, the more we come to understand that we’re living today in light of eternity. That’s 1 Peter. We have to develop that.
- As we develop that, we come to know God more deeply, more profoundly; and our personal love for God develops, which motivates us.
- As we come to understand our love for God and His love for all mankind, then we can emulate that through an unconditional or impersonal love for all mankind. Impersonal doesn’t mean that somehow it is divorced from personal interaction. It means we don’t necessarily have a personal relationship with the people we’re to love. Like the person on the other end of the phone in a customer service conversation that speaks Indian or Pakistani, or whatever language it is that we don’t understand anymore because we’re getting hard of hearing. We just want somebody who speaks English and especially Texan English. Then we know what’s going on. Right? We have to love that person even though we don’t know them and they are on the other side of the world. It means respect, and it means politeness and it means patience – something that many of us aren’t real strong on.
- Then we focus on Christ, fixing our faith on Christ, fixing our eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ, occupation with Christ.
- And finally, we learn to enjoy the happiness of Christ that God has shared with us.
Those are the ten spiritual skills and I’ve developed those in numerous other places.
5. Now under point five (slide 14), these ten problem-solving spiritual skills allow the believer to face any situation in life and remain poised, stable, happy in the midst of distressing circumstances and in control of the situation no matter how horrible or agonizing the circumstances may be without giving in to your sin nature.
We don’t have to give in to our sin nature. That’s just a revolutionary concept for most of us. We know that academically, but every day we wake-up. We ought to have something tattooed on the inside of our eyelids that says: You don’t have to yield to your sin nature, buddy. Just wake-up and recognize that. You have been freed from that dominion by the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
6. Sin nature control (slide 15) means arrogance and the operation of the arrogance skills.
Now I’ve summarized these here, basically (slide 16):
- Self-absorption, which leads to self-indulgence.
We want to just focus on “me.” It is not about “you.” It is about “me.” And when you get two sinners living together, each one is screaming at the other one. It’s all about “me.” It’s not about “you,” and that leads to a lot of problems. When we are focused on self, that leads to self-indulgence. We want to spoil ourselves, and we like to feed the comfort areas of our sin nature with our comfort sins.
- That’s self-indulgence. That leads to self-justification.
Because it works for us. It may not be biblical, but it works for me, and it helps me solve my problems. But it is not getting you anywhere. In fact, eventually it’s going to cause great problems in your life.
- We have self-justification, which leads to self-deception as we develop all kinds of rationalizations for our sinful behavior.
- And because we are the ultimate determiner of what’s right for our life – that’s self-deification. We make an idol of our own passions and our own desires.
Hannah is dealing with all of this affliction, which should be driving her in one direction. But instead she uses it to focus more upon the Lord. She is going to make a vow to God that if God will give her what she desires, she will give it back to God. She is going to vow to give the son back to God to serve God all of his life, which would be hard to do. So I want to look briefly at the doctrine of the Nazarite vow.
The Doctrine of the Nazirite Vow (slide 17)
This may or may not show up real well (slide 18). I tried to enlarge it a little bit. You can see it some. This was a little info-graphic that LOGOS developed on the Nazirite vow. The key passage for the Nazirite vow is found in Numbers 6. If you read through that chapter, you will come to understand what the basic issues are. They are basically the term nazir in the Hebrew. It had something to do with a making of a special kind of vow. In Numbers 6:2, the Nazirite vow is stated to be a vow of separation unto God. That concept of being separate to God is inherent in the word kadosh, which is the word for “holy” in Scripture. Being holy (for God is holy) means to be set apart to His service. But a Nazirite vow takes it to a higher level. They were taking on a special vow with certain external trappings that were an external sign of devotion to God and being separated from the world for the specific purpose of serving God. Various priests and prophets are indicated through the Scripture as having taken a Nazirite vow. But the two that stand out are Samson and Samuel, who as we’ve studied, lived approximately the same time.
Samuel here is seen often as a contrast to Samson. Samson’s parents were approached by the Angel of the Lord and told that his mother, who had been unable to conceive just like Hannah, was pregnant. She didn’t go to the Lord in prayer, but the Angel came to her and said you are going to have a son, and he’s going to be a Nazirite from birth. Hannah prayed to God and said if You give me a son, I’ll make him a Nazirite from birth. But what we’re going to see is that Samson was a failure mostly, but Samuel is mostly a spiritual success. The basic aspects of a Nazirite vow was that:
1. They were not allowed to eat grapes, drink wine, or even touch a grapevine or a product of grapes. That was completely foreign to them. They were not supposed to have anything to do with the grapevine.
2. They were not to cut their hair. They were to let their hair and their beard grow without cutting it.
3. They were not to touch a dead body.
Each of these indicated a special significance of separation unto God. This is exactly what Hannah prays to the Lord. In 1 Samuel 1:11, she says, “if You will give Your maidservant a male child then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life and no razor shall come upon his head.” Hannah is going to make the decision for him. It is interesting that later on in the Scripture during the time of Isaiah and Amos, that in Amos 2:11–12 God says, “I raised up some of your sons as prophets, And some of your young men as Nazirites. Is it not so, O you children of Israel?” … “But you gave the Nazirites wine to drink, And commanded the prophets saying, ‘Do not prophesy!’ ” in other words, we see this indictment of Israel later on that in their apostasy they wanted to remove the Nazarites and the prophets from their ministries and from their effectiveness in their particular lives.
That’s the prayer. Let’s see how it is answered. In 1 Samuel 1:12 (slide 19), we read, “And it happened that she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli watched her mouth.” We’re going to see in 1 Samuel 1:12–14 Eli’s reaction and Eli’s involvement. It tells us a certain amount about his spiritual denseness. We read that Hannah spoke in her heart, but her lips were moving as she was praying to God. Her voice wasn’t heard. Eli thought she was drunk. This was probably because there was a problem when people came together for the feast days, that they would use it like the Corinthians would many centuries later. They would use it as an opportunity to be gluttons and to become drunk with the wine at the festivals. Eli just assumed, in this spiritually apostate culture of Israel at the time, that she was drunk. And so he rebukes her. He says, “How long will you be drunk? Put the wine away from you.”
What we see after that is Hannah’s answer to him (slide 20). She says, “No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit,” [1 Samuel 1:15] of hard spirit. I’ve gone through difficult circumstances and “I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord.” I’ve been praying here. She in turn rebukes him and exposes his spiritual denseness. Then we go on to read in 1 Samuel 1:16 (slide 21). It’s translated wrongly in some versions. The New King James, which is the verse at the top says, “Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman.” That’s the female version of a male version you’ve often heard me refer to. The Bible in 1 Samuel also refers to SOBs, sons of Belial. In fact, the two sons of Eli are described as disobedient sons. In the Hebrew it’s sons of Belial, sons of disobedience and rebelliousness. Hannah uses the feminine version here. She says don’t consider me a daughter of Belial. The writer is making a contrast between Hannah and her spiritual maturity and obedience and the spiritual apostasy of Eli’s sons. She says, “Do not consider me a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief ...”
I pointed out last time, the Holman Christian Study Bible says “resentment.” And that resentment in English implies that she’s committing a sin. But she’s not committing a sin. The Hebrew word there is the word for grief or provocation. It is the word I have at the bottom of the slide, kaas, which means that she is going through circumstances that would make her angry or cause her sorrow or grief. It’s what she does with that that’s important, and she turns to the Lord to do that. We looked at that last time, so I’m going to go past that slide (slide 22), and then we see Eli’s response to her (slide 23), how he answers her. He takes his correction. In 1 Samuel 1:17 he says, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel…”. Notice, he refers to God as the what? The God of Israel. How did Hannah refer to God? Yahweh Sabaoth. See? He uses the term Elohim. Eli never uses the covenant name of God when he refers to God, but Hannah uses the covenant name of God whenever she refers to Him.
Then Eli says, may “the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him.” This is an interesting little pun that we see in the Hebrew, and these puns in the Hebrew often bring out important points that the writer wants us to get. But if it’s not brought out in the English translation and the English translator doesn’t catch it, then we miss it. You have to have a fairly sophisticated understanding of Scripture to even pick up on some of these puns. The writer of Judges used a lot of puns as well to make his points. He says, “grant your petition which you have asked of Him.” If you look down to the end of the chapter when Hannah names Samuel, she is going to name him because he’s the one that she asked of the Lord. 1 Samuel 1:27, “For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him.” We’re going to see this word sha’al again.
The Hebrew word sha’al, to ask, is where we get the name Shaul, Saul. What is the writer saying? The real response to the request is Samuel, not the first king of Israel, that’s going to pop up in 1 Samuel 9, Saul, because Saul is a failure. The real solution to the problem that Israel has is Samuel, not Saul. It is just a real subtle sophisticated foreshadowing through the use of this word twice in the text to bring out these kinds of nuances. You have these various uses of sha’al. It’s translated “request”; it’s also translated “loan.” This root is used twice in 1 Samuel 1:17; 1 Samuel 1:20. It is used twice in 1 Samuel 1:27. It is used twice in 1 Samuel 1:28 and then it is used again in 1 Samuel 2:20. The repetition of that word indicates the writer is trying to bring out something and make some sort of a point through these word plays. Saul became very important for Israel, but the real answer to the request that was made was Samuel, who is a man who is devoted to God, not Saul.
1 Samuel 1:18 (slide 24), Hannah responds and she says (notice her humility), “Let your maidservant find …”. What’s that word? “Favor”; what’s the Hebrew word for favor? Hen, the root of the name Hannah. It’s another pun. To bring out the emphasis in this text is God’s gracious answer to her prayer. And God’s gracious answer to her prayer is God’s gracious answer to Israel’s unspoken request to deliver them from the oppression of the Philistines. They didn’t articulate it. They had collapsed into apostasy; but nevertheless, God is going to respond by giving them a deliverer.
So she says, “Let your maidservant find [grace] in Your sight.” That’s how I would translate that: find grace in Your sight. “So the woman went away and ate, and her face was no longer sad.” What’s changed her orientation from sadness to joy? It’s that she has gone to the Lord in prayer. Eli has told her, this is a function of his priesthood – that God would grant her petition, which she has asked of God. So Hannah goes away joyful, knowing now that God is going to answer her request.
Then we are told what happens to the family. They’ve been celebrating at the feast. They got up early the next morning (slide 25), worshipped before the Lord; they went and had sacrifices again, and then they returned to their home at Ramah, which was about a 20–23 miles away, probably a day’s journey. That’s why they got up so early in the morning. “Elkanah (then) knew Hannah as his wife,” the euphemism for sexual relations, “and the Lord remembered her.” This is a figure of speech because God had not forgotten her. God did not need to be reminded of what was going on. This is a figure of speech that indicates, or uses thinking or emotions on the part of a human being to, by analogy, talk about something going on in God. It is called an anthropopathism. It is the use of a human emotion or thought to express something that God doesn’t actually possess in order to communicate His plan and His policies.
In an anthropomorphism, that’s where it talks about “the eye of God going to and fro” or “the hand of God” or “the arm of God.” God does not actually possess eyes, arms, and fingers, and so that’s something God doesn’t actually possess, but it is used because of our human frame of reference to communicate something about God.
The Lord remembers her. It is an anthropopathism. God answered her prayer. And “it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Sham’l…, “Because I have asked for him from the LORD.” The name Sham’l or Samuel. In the Hebrew you have the first consonant is shin, then you have an ‘a’ class vowel, then you have the mem, the ‘m’, and then you have the lamed. The only difference between the word Sham’l and Shaul (Saul) is the ‘m’ in the middle. And so Sham’l doesn’t mean to ask, but Shaul does.
What you have in this sort of popular naming of children is they will name him something that sounds like something else. It’s not that the name actually means what they say it means, but it sounds like the word that means that; and so it brings that to mind when you hear the name Sham’l. The only difference between Sham’l and Shaul is one letter. This again is just something that plays in the background of the Hebrew text pointing out that the real answer to the request for deliverance is Samuel, not Saul.
I’m going to stop there because we’re out of time, and we’ll finish up the chapter next time, as well as going into the wonderful praise psalm that Hannah composes in 1 Samuel 2 that is in fact a Messianic psalm because it foreshadows the coming of the Messiah.
“Father, we thank You for the opportunity to look at these things this evening to realize that we all go through afflictions. We all go through adversity. The issue is not what we go through. The issue is how we respond to it and too often we respond in our own power and our own effort without taking the time to relax, to focus upon You, to claim promises, to use the spiritual skills that are described in the Scripture to resolve those adversities and to walk through those fiery trials as Peter calls them, so that we are not burnt or not hurt. We are not hindered in our spiritual life by the traumas, the difficulties, the adversities, or the prosperities that we go through. Father, we pray that You might strengthen each of us as we face these fiery trials, these difficulties in life and that we might be more conscientious each time we face them in thinking through how we should respond through the use of Your Word and we pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”