August 21st 2022: John Mann

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1 Samuel 2:1-11: Hannah’s Song of Praise

Hannah has suffered the distress of childlessness and the scornful abuse of Elkanah’s other wife, who has children. But then Hannah is blessed with a son and Samuel is born. Hannah’s joy is unbounded, her joy is complete. These are some of the happiest days of Hannah’s life. As Samuel grew, Hannah’s love for Samuel grew. But, constantly in the back of her mind was her vow to God, 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.” (1 Samuel 1:11).

Hannah was a godly woman. She was a loving mother. I’m sure during the early days, she must have had thought in her mind, ‘Does God really expect me to give my son to Him, for all the days of his life? Does God know what this means to me? Does He really understand how I feel about giving up my only son?’ God understood. He knew the pain of giving up a son because He had also made a vow, back in eternity, of giving up His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus.

Hannah was sending Samuel to a good place, a welcoming place, into the care of Eli the priest, the servant of God. God would send His Son into a fallen world of hatred and rejection, to be abused and mocked by the servants of Satan.

Samuel would know safety and security under the protection of God’s servant, a life of privilege and blessing. Jesus had no-where to lay down His head, no place to call His own, raised to a life of depravation, of hatred and pain.

Samuel would live to a ripe old age. Jesus would be cut down in His prime, nailed to a cruel Roman cross.

Samuel would become a great example of faithfulness, but Samuel was still a sinner. Jesus, in spite of everything He endured, the torment and the temptation, remained perfect in thought, word and deed.

Hannah must have thought, ‘Surely there must be another way.’ God knew all along that there was no other way to provide salvation for sinners. Jesus is the only way. Jesus is the only one ever to fulfil the law of God. His spotless life was the only sacrifice good enough. God knew what the cost of salvation would be to Himself and to His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Hannah’s love for Samuel enabled her to give him up. For her, it was the deepest act of love to dedicate Samuel to God for his life. The deepest act we can do for our loved ones is to commit them to God in our prayers, in our example, as we seek to live for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. The greatest thing we can do for our loved ones is to dedicate them to the Lord.

As Hannah packed her bags and headed off to Shiloh, taking Samuel with her, it was with a measure of sadness but also with joy in the knowledge that there could be no better thing for him than a lifetime of dedication to God. So, she was able to say, “So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he shall be given over to the Lord.’ (1 Samuel 1:28). Is that your desire for your loved ones, for your children?

Hannah prays this prayer of thanksgiving to God. There are 4 distinct parts.

  1. Hannah praises God for His sovereignty.

She is moved to begin with words of praise. Even as she’s parted from the son she loves, she knows it’s ultimately for his good. She finds strength in the Lord. Hannah is weak, frail and saddened but she finds strength in the Lord. She gladly acknowledges it was God who overcame her barrenness. God’s power is greater than circumstances. He is always loving and faithful with me, therefore, we can trust Him.

  • Hannah praise God for His character.

“There is none holy like the Lord:
    for there is none besides you;
    there is no rock like our God.”
1 Samuel 2:2

God has no rivals in His purity. God alone is perfect. He alone is the one who has done all things well. David also acknowledges this, “This God – his way is perfect.” (2 Samuel 22:31a). Look to the Lord alone, the One who sustains us. When we cry to Him, He always answers. He is the rock, the solid foundation on which we can build our lives. We can lean upon the grace of God, in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Hannah also declares God’s glorious omniscience,

“Talk no more so very proudly,
    let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
    and by him actions are weighed.”
1 Samuel 2:3

Hannah knew God wasn’t ignorant of her situation or the cost of her sacrifice. Hannah’s faithfulness was rewarded by God. This barren woman was only not only rewarded with Samuel, but six other children. Seven children in all – the Bible’s number of fullness and perfection. We too have an omniscient Saviour, one who has felt all our heartaches, trails and difficulties, all our joys. Our Saviour has been through every battle we are likely to go through. Jesus is aware of everything we are going through. He promises not only to keep us but to reward our faith. Hannah was a barren woman. We live in barren times. Are you concerned for your own children in these wicked days?

  • Hannah praises God for His transforming power.

We see this in verses 4-8, where she presents three different example of God turning the tables. Our God is the God who transforms and turns things around. We see a turning around of strength,

“The bows of the mighty are broken,
    but the feeble bind on strength.”
1 Samuel 2:4

Very often, we can feel defeated by our circumstances. It seems to us that the powers of darkness are those with the bows in their hands, and the church are those who are stumbling. Hannah reminds us God is sovereign and supremely able to turn things round in a moment.

The things of this world do not satisfy. Real peace can only be found in the Lord Jesus. Jesus says, “Blest are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
    but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger.
The barren has borne seven,
    but she who has many children is forlorn.
1 Samuel 2:5

Hannah may be speaking about Elkanah’s other wife here. We don’t know anything more about her. But I also think that Hannah is not only praying and praising, she is prophesying as well. I believe she is speaking about the children of God, that they will always prosper. The Lord Jesus is still building His Church. Through His death and Resurrection, the Lord Jesus Christ is still bringing many to glory. Do we really believe that God can overcome the indifference that we see around us? God can still bring blessing out of barrenness. Humanly speaking, it was impossible for Hannah to have a child, but with God, all things are possible.

Verses 6-7 confirm His great authority and sovereign choice,

“The Lord brings death and makes alive;
He brings down to the grave and raises up. The Lord sends poverty and wealth;
He humbles and He exalts.”

1 Samuel 2:6-7

The very next breath that you breathe will be because God gives it to you by His sovereign will.

Verses 8-10 outline His sovereign grace in salvation.

He raise up the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
He seats them with princes
and makes them inherit a throne of honour.
He will guard the feet of his faithful servants.”
1 Samuel 2:8-9a

What greater assurance do we need, than the Lord will guard the feet of His saints. If you are trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, that is you.

There is a serious note as well, a sad note. For those who refuse His grace, things are much different. We read on and see,

“The wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness,
those who oppose the Lord will be broken.
The Most High will thunder from heaven;
the LORD will judge the ends of the earth.”
1 Samuel 2:10

All protests, all criticism, all opposition will finally be silenced when they come face to face with the God of eternity. Hebrews 10 says, ”If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” (Hebrews 10:26-27). These are fearful word. But that is the reality for those who refuse the grace of God. I trust that there are none amongst us here who are turning away from the grace of God.

  • Hannah praises God for His ultimate purpose.

As well as praising, Hannah is also prophesying. “He will give strength to his King and exalt the horn of the anointed.” (1 Samuel 2:10b). Hannah is speaking about the king, but Israel has no king yet. She speaks about an anointed one, a Messiah, one chosen and sent by God to establish His kingdom. Hannah wouldn’t have known the full implications of what she is saying. How could she? A king for Israel was in the distant future. But by the Spirit, Hannah is proclaiming the coming of the King of Kings, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the One anointed and chosen by God to redeem His people from their sins.

Centuries after Hannah spoke her great prayer of praise and prophecy, her song is mirrored, confirmed by Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, as he also rejoices in song at the imminent arrival of the Messiah. The one that Hannah prophesied has come. In Luke 1 we read, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come and redeemed His people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his father David.” Zechariah has confirmed what Hannah prophesied. The Lord Jesus Christ came, and He came to redeem His people from their sins as He died on Calvary’s cross for the sins of those who will trust in Him.

Are you trusting God through the trials and difficulties, those things that you don’t understand, just as Hannah did? Is that your song? Do you have a song of praise and thankfulness? Do we have Hannah-like faith? Are we ready to trust God’s providence, even when we don’t fully understand it? Are we looking to Christ, the horn of our salvation?

Are you praising God for His sovereignty in your life? Are you praising God for His character, the one who is gracious, loving, faithful and forgiving heavenly Father? Are you praising God for His transforming power that has turned your life around and set you on the narrow path that leads to life? Are you praising God for His ultimate purpose in sending the Lord Jesus Christ that we might be saved and go to be with Him for all eternity?

November 14th 2021: John Mann

1 Samuel 3:11 – 4:11

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1 Samuel 3:11 – 4:11

I love the Old Testament accounts and exploits of God’s people. Here, the nation of Israel is in a state of apostasy. We read at the end of the book of Judges, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6).

Today, people do what is right in their own eyes. God remained faithful to the Israelites, despite their foolishness. “Then the Lord said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle.” (1 Samuel 3:11). Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the day, were wicked men. God pronounced a curse on the house of Eli because of his disobedience and his failure to control his sons (v.14).

Eli’s two sons are about to suffer the judgement of God. Poor Samuel was tasked with bearing bad news, telling Eli of God’s judgement. Even in this situation, the sovereign goodness of God works in His people. Eli came to acknowledge, even through his discipline, even through this difficult situation, that the sovereign goodness of God works ultimately for the good of His people. “So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him.” (v.18).

There is an application for us already, at the start of this passage; God is always working out His overall plan to do us good, to work out His set purposes according to His constant grace and mercy. God is faithful. There are no accidental incidents on our lives. Our lives are ordained according to the set purpose of our sovereign God. Very often we may not fully recognise it. God is faithful and He is working our His purposes.

Fear of Eli’s response made Samuel initially shy away from giving Eli this message. But he realised it had to be declared openly and fully as it had been given to him, no matter what Eli’s response would be. The gospel of salvation is very often an offence to sinners. It exposes the condition of their hearts. It lays bare the corruption that lies within everyone of us. The doctrine of hell is an offence to sinners. The idea of eternal punishment goes against what they feel to be true of themselves. Preaching the full gospel in our day can often be a hard undertaking. It is not always easy to proclaim the full truth that God has entrusted to us. The gospel very often is watered down, even in the established church.

Eli indicates how seriously we must take God’s instructions, “And Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” (1 Samuel 3:17). God will deal severely with those who do not preach truthfully, honestly and boldly. I believe that Samuel learned an important early lesson – it is not our place to edit the word of God or choose those things we feel are more acceptable, but to tell it as it is and leave God to deal with the reactions that come from it.

God blesses Samuel’s response, “And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.” (1 Samuel 3:19). God helps us to see that in our day, the words that are preached do not fall to the ground. We are promised God’s word will not return to Him void. That is the assurance we should have. Jesus said, “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:11-12). Warning people of coming judgement and hell takes great wisdom and tact. Jesus said, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16). We have to be truthful and speak of judgement and hell. Our witness must be urgent and not compromised. But it also has to be with love and tears.

God continued to use Samuel, “And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord.” (1 Samuel 3:20). Strangely, after being called by God, Samuel takes a back seat and is not mentioned in chapters 4-6, which switch to God’s sovereignty and His gracious dealings with His rebellious people. God’s grace was seen on countless occasions. Samuel did not go on holiday or take a sabbatical; he would still have been preaching. Sadly, the people weren’t listening or responding to God’s word. But God was still at work, working out His purposes.

The Israelites are about to engage in battle with the Philistines. The battle commences, the Philistines are victorious. In the wake of this stinging defeat the Israelites come up with the bright idea of getting the Ark of the Covenant, “And when the people came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, that it[ may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.” (1 Samuel 4:3).

When the Ark of the Covenant arrived, the Israelites gave a great shout, “As soon as the Ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded.” (1 Samuel 4:5). The Philistines shake in their shoes. The wonders of what God had done in Egypt have reached their ears, now this God had come to the Israelites. However, the Philistines’ morale is restored (v.9). The battle continues, but this time the Israelites are not just beaten but thrashed (v.10). Hophni and Phinehas died. It’s a bloodbath, gruesome, awful.

The Israelites were on the receiving end. Why? Because they had taken the Ark of the Covenant into battle. They didn’t so much want God as the box that He was in. They have rejected God and gone their own way. They are facing an enemy and are going in their own strength, led by Hophni and Phinehas, who dishonoured the name of Yahweh. The called for the ‘magic box’, a talisman. Their faith is no more than superstition. God will not be manipulated or manoeuvred.

Sadly, even within churches of our day, people want to use the name of Jesus as a means to an end. With so-called faith they expect to get what they want from God – their health and their wealth. Their hearts have little consideration for the glory of the name of Jesus. Their lives do little to honour His name, but they still expect an answer when the battle heats up, when opposition comes or when they face difficulties.

Remember what Jesus said, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:22-23).

Our God is not a God who operates at our beck and call. We can’t manipulate or mould God into our way of thinking. This is our sovereign God who is awesome in His majesty. He cannot, and will not, be trifled with. This is the reality of many today, who think God is there for their convenience, when it suits them.

What a god of grace He is. When His people oppose Him, when they blaspheme the name of Jesus, when they scorn and criticise, God, in His grace and mercy, withholds His hand of judgement, causes the sun to shine on the righteous and the unrighteous. He sends rain on the just and the unjust. Our God is a God of remarkable grace and patience. I believe it is only when people of our day seek God as He really is, in all the wonder of His being, in all the purity and perfection and the awesomeness and power of our God, that our nation will ever change and be lifted out of the pit that it has put itself in.

34,000 soldiers lay dead on a gruesome, blood-filled battlefield. The enemies rejoice. Often, the church seems so weak against the enemy. It appears it is all over for the Israelites. But that is to forget God is working through all circumstances. He foretold the deaths of Hophni and Phinehas (chapter 2). Now God is bringing His judgement to pass. But even in this disaster, God was working out His purpose for His chosen people. God always keeps His word and His intentions are always carried out. Jesus said, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18).

There are battles in the life of the church, in our own personal lives. We may feel the battle is lost, we may feel discouraged, until God reminds us not to lose sight of His sovereignty and purposes. God uses our circumstances, even the enemy against us, to remove the dross and refine us. Eli is feeling the discipline and judgement. But God’s promises are true and will always come to pass. There has been a great battle and a great defeat, but this is not the end.

Two thousand years ago, on a hill outside of Jerusalem, another battle was fought, a greater battle. It appeared there that the enemy had the upper hand, it seemed that Satan had achieved his ultimate purpose – to destroy God’s Messiah, along with His plan of salvation.

The enemies of God were rejoicing as they stood at the cross and saw what was happening, as they mocked and scorned, convinced that their victory was complete. The hero of the church was captured, humiliated, hanging on a Roman cross. It appeared this gruesome, blood-soaked battlefield was the end, not only of the Lord Jesus Christ but also His church. But God’s plan was being fulfilled and His purpose was being carried out. Out of this apparent defeat came a glorious and final victory – the enemy of our souls destroyed forever. Sin destroyed forever. Death destroyed forever. Pain, suffering, illness, conflict, sadness, loneliness, crying, weeping, all ultimately destroyed forever.

This was no defeat. At Calvary it was a glorious victory. We are told to never judge by appearances. It appeared it was all over for the Israelites. But God had not deserted them. He was ordering events, guiding circumstances, controlling the outcome, in order that their future might be more certain, that they might know a stronger future, that they might be drawn ever closer to Him, that their future might be more faithful, that their walk with Him might be deeper and closer.

There may be times when we appear to be losing the battle. There may be times when our enemy seems to be winning. There are times when we lose some battles, when we foolishly rely upon our own strengths, thinking we can make it by our own resources. We find, to our own cost, that our strength is completely insufficient. There are times when we lose these battles. But God is always in control. We lose some battles, but the war is already won. The Lord Jesus Christ has triumphed on Calvary and those who are in Him, who are in Christ Jesus, looking alone to Him for their salvation, are safe and secure, because we are lon the victory side.

God hadn’t finished with the Israelites, this wasn’t the end. God hasn’t finished with us. If you are believing and trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, knowing the difficulties, knowing the battles, feeling the weakness, God hasn’t finished with you yet. His perfect, gracious, unstoppable intention was to lead His people, the Israelites, to a greater knowledge of Himself. His unstoppable intention in your life and mine is to lead us on to a greater Christ-likeness in this life, but then, ultimately, to perfect Christ-likeness in eternity.

So, when you are feeling the heat of the battle, look to Christ because He hasn’t finished with us. We are still on the victory side and the best is yet to come.