Trusting God in Prayer – 1 Samuel 1

Desperation; nothing fuels our prayer life like when we’re desperate. When God’s people are helpless, hopeless, and ready to give up then God is ready to work in our lives. What if the desperation we find ourselves in is actually God’s plan for us? As a loving Father, God is always at work for our best and His glory. Desperate times are God’s training ground for growth. We learn to trust God in new ways during these times. We learn the benefits of humble dependence. We learn to trust God not only in desperation but also in ordinary needs.  Since faith in God brings Him glory and is for our good, we know that anything that grows our faith is a loving gift from a loving God. This is seen clearly in the story of Hannah in her beautiful, desperate prayer for God to provide her a child (Samuel, the last and greatest judge in Israel) who she in turn would dedicate to the Lord.   Here’s what we learn from Hannah’s prayers of desperation:

Pray to Change Things (1 Sam. 1:10-11)

It seemed God was against Hannah. God had prevented Hannah from bearing children (v. 6). In her barrenness, Hannah found no consolation from those around her. Her family (like many families) was a huge mess.  For years, Hannah felt the stinging mockery of her rival Peninnah (vv. 6-7), and her husband Elkanah’s attempts to comfort her with well-intended sympathy fell flat (v. 8).

The conflict would not go away. Some problems seem like they never go away. Elkanah violated God’s design in marriage by having more than one wife. Now he is reaping the consequences of his actions, but so is Hannah.  Husbands need to realize that their decisions affect their wives and children too.  Deeply distressed, she began to pray to the Lord through bitter tears that caught the ear of her compassionate heavenly Father.

While Peninnah and Elkanah looked at Hannah’s outward circumstances, God was moving ahead with his plan. Think of those in your world who are struggling with God’s timing in answering their prayers and who need your love and help. By supporting those who are struggling, you may help them remain steadfast in their faith and confident in his timing to bring fulfillment to their lives.

Hannah made a vow to God that if He would provide her a son, she would give him back to God. (vs. 11) She was not bribing God but was demonstrating an act of humble faith, recognizing that only God could overcome her barrenness. In the same way, we are all spiritually barren when it comes to salvation.

Pray Through Opposition (1 Sam. 1:12-16)

Each of us may face times of barrenness when nothing “comes to birth” in our work, service, or relationships. It is difficult to pray in faith when we feel so ineffective. But, as Hannah discovered,  prayer opens the way for God to work.

Eli’s Criticism (vv. 12-14) – Eli the priest observed Hannah and assumed that she was drunk! (v. 13). Eli didn’t recognize anguished prayer when he saw it. In the same way, the disciples were accused of drunkenness after the Holy Spirit fell upon them at Pentecost (Acts 2:13). Many will not recognize or understand why someone would deal with their heartache through prayer.

Hannah could have been very angry and hateful and used grievous words. She could have retaliated and lashed out at Eli about his wicked sons. The fact that she is at the temple made her vulnerable to these sons (2:22-23). Hannah doesn’t mention these sons to Eli. Why? What has she been doing? The answer is praying. Prayer helps us to respond the right way to people who may come across the wrong way.

Hannah is a broken woman, broken and humbled by her heartache and trials. Her reputation has already taken a beating being a barren woman. This was considered a judgment of God. She has already been taunted for years by Peninnah so what is one more accusation. She has already been misunderstood by her husband in a sense, and now by the priest. God was breaking her down to build her up

God is in the business of using broken things and broken people. Before a thing can be made, sometimes it must be broken.  Before a house is built, a tree must be broken down.  Before a foundation is laid, the rocks must be blasted from the quarry.  Before the ripe grain can cover the fields, the soil must be broken and beaten small.

Hannah’s Confession (vv. 15-18) – Hannah’s response to Eli’s accusation reveals much concerning her heart before the Lord. She described herself as “deeply troubled” (v. 15), pouring out her soul before the Lord and praying from deep anguish and grief (v. 16).

This is the antidote for discouragement: Tell God how we really feel and leave our problems with him. Then rely upon the support of good friends and counselors.

Pray and Give Back to God (1 Samuel 20-28)

Hannah discovered that the greatest joy in having a child is to give that child fully and freely back to God. She entered motherhood prepared to do what all mothers must eventually do—let go of their children

God’s Response (v. 20) From His goodness and mercy, God answered Hannah’s prayer and provided her with a son. Hannah had no spiritual credentials other than her humility, and yet this obscure woman from the hills of Ephraim found an audience with God.

Hannah’s Response (vs. 26-28) She in turn made good on her vow and gave her son back to the Lord. Hannah was vindicated by the grace of God.

The time has come to keep a promise. God has given Hannah peace about the timing. The baby boy she suckled is about to leave her side. No longer will her son’s big wide eyes that glow with wonder, excitement, and joy look up into Hannah’s face on a daily basis. No longer will she feel those little arms around her neck and hear those tender words, “I love you Mommy” like she used too. No longer will the walls of her home echo with the cries of a little boy who has a boo boo or with the laughter of a child playing. One less setting will be at Hannah’s table now. All she has is her memories and periodic visits to the Temple. Will she miss her Samuel? Yes! But God has given her grace and peace and even joy in the surrender of her son to the Lord. Her eyes are on the Lord! Her love for God is greater than her love for Samuel. If a loved one is lost in death or divorce, then we can learn to respond the way Hannah did.

Hannah’s story teaches us about our humility and dependence on God as well as God’s faithfulness to us. God can be trusted in every circumstance because He works all things for our good (Rom. 8:28). We are all spiritually barren, unable to save ourselves and in a state of desperation. However, God is faithful. He provided His Son, Jesus, for all who admit their utter helplessness and cry out to Him in faith.

By faith Hannah sees the light at the end of the tunnel. Hannah has truly taken her burden to the Lord and left it there. God has given her total faith, trust, and confidence in Him. She is at peace and rest. Jesus promised this rest to us (Matthew 11:28).

www.Upwards.Church

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Trusting God – 1 Samuel Intro.

Life is full of challenges and complications.  What do we do when we face these overwhelming obstacles? 1 Samuel tells the stories of women and men who struggled to trust God but in doing so discovered that He is enough.  Like them we can embrace the fact that God’s guidance and goodness can be trusted.   Here are the the first  people introduced in 1 Samuel, their life lessons and what we can learn from them in the next few weeks:

Hannah

Hannah’s prayer shows us that all we have and receive is on loan from God. Hannah might have had many excuses for being a possessive mother. But when God answered her prayer, she followed through on her promise to dedicate Samuel to God’s service.

She discovered that the greatest joy in having a child is to give that child fully and freely back to God. She entered motherhood prepared to do what all mothers must eventually do—let go of their children.

When children are born, they are completely dependent upon their parents for all their basic necessities. This causes some parents to forget that those same children will grow toward independence within the span of a few short years. Being sensitive to the different stages of that healthy process will greatly strengthen family relationships; resisting or denying that process will cause great pain. We must gradually let go of our children in order to allow them to become mature, independent adults.

Strengths and accomplishments

  • Mother of Samuel, Israel’s greatest judge
  • Fervent in worship; effective in prayer
  • Willing to follow through on even a costly commitment

Weakness and mistake

  • Struggled with her sense of self-worth because she had been unable to have children

Lessons from her life

  • God hears and answers prayer
  • Our children are gifts from God
  • God is concerned for the oppressed and afflicted

Her story is told in 1 Samuel 1-2.

 

Elkanah & Peninnah

Husbands can be insensitive for many reasons, but often they simply suffer from ignorance. Elkanah had two wives, which doubled his opportunities to seem insensitive. His wife Peninnah was able to give Elkanah many children. The other wife, Hannah, owned Elkanah’s heart but was unable to get pregnant. Peninnah, jealous that providing Elkanah with heirs didn’t turn his affections toward her, treated Hannah with disdain. Yet Elkanah seemed oblivious to the turmoil around him.

Although the events leading up to the birth of Samuel primarily involved Hannah, both Elkanah and Peninnah played significant roles. Peninnah’s competitiveness and derision drove Hannah to prayer; Elkanah’s simple love allowed Hannah to entrust their child Samuel into God’s care. Elkanah didn’t realize how much a little attention toward Peninnah could have cooled the simmering emotions in his home. Nor did he understand that his love for Hannah didn’t make up for the emptiness of her womb.

The glimpse God gives us of that tense household provides a helpful backdrop for God’s purposes, which are not thwarted by human shortcomings. He worked within the strain and stress of those relationships to bring Samuel into the world—one of the most significant figures in the Old Testament. When our relational systems seem too gnarled to be unraveled or salvaged, we need to remember that God not only displays his creativity by making things from scratch, but also by bringing order and beauty out of messes.

Strengths and accomplishments

  • Elkanah supported Hannah’s decision to leave Samuel in Shiloh to be raised as a priest
  • Regular trips to Shiloh acknowledged God’s importance to the entire family

Weaknesses and mistakes

  • Elkanah did not understand what would have helped each of his wives
  • Peninnah made things worse by taking out her disappointment and anger on Hannah

Lessons from their lives

  • Ignorance is not a good excuse for insensitivity
  • Jealousy is not a good excuse for bad behavior
  • God works in the middle of family messes

Their story is told in 1 Samuel 1-2.

Eli

Eli was one Old Testament person with a very modern problem. The recognition and respect he earned in public did not extend to his handling of his private affairs. He may have been an excellent priest, but he was a poor parent. His sons brought him grief and ruin. He lacked two important qualities needed for effective parental discipline: firm resolve and corrective action.

Eli responded to situations rather than solving them. But even his responses tended to be weak. God pointed out his sons’ errors, but Eli did little to correct them. The contrast between God’s dealing with Eli and Eli’s dealing with his sons is clear—God gave warning, spelled out the consequences of disobedience, and then acted. Eli only warned. Children need to learn that their parents’ words and actions go together. Both love and discipline must be spoken as well as acted out.

But Eli had another problem. He was more concerned with the symbols of his religion than with the God they represented. For Eli, the Ark of the Covenant had become a relic to be protected rather than a reminder of the Protector. His faith shifted from the Creator to the created.

Strengths and accomplishments

  • Judged Israel for 40 years
  • Spoke with Hannah, the mother of Samuel, and assured her of God’s blessing
  • Reared and trained Samuel, the greatest judge of Israel

Weaknesses and mistakes

  • Failed to discipline his sons or correct them when they sinned
  • Tended to react to situations rather than take decisive action
  • Saw the Ark of the Covenant as a relic to be cherished rather than as a symbol of God’s presence with Israel

Lessons from his life

  • Parents need to discipline their children responsibly
  • Life is more than simply reacting; it demands action
  • Past victories cannot substitute for present trust

Key verses

Then the Lord said to Samuel, ‘I am about to do a shocking thing in Israel. I am going to carry out all my threats against Eli and his family, from beginning to end. I have warned him that judgment is coming upon his family forever, because his sons are blaspheming God and he hasn’t disciplined them. So I have vowed that the sins of Eli and his sons will never be forgiven by sacrifices or offerings'” (1 Samuel 3:11-14).

His story is told in 1 Samuel 1-4. He is also mentioned in 1 Kings 2:2627.

Samuel

We often wonder about the childhoods of great people. We have little information about the early years of most of the people mentioned in the Bible. One delightful exception is Samuel; he came as a result of God’s answer to Hannah’s fervent prayer for a child. (In fact, the name Samuel comes from the Hebrew expression “heard of God.”) God shaped Samuel from the start. Like Moses, Samuel was called to fill many different roles: judge, priest, prophet, counselor, and God’s man at a turning point in the history of Israel. God worked through Samuel because Samuel was willing to be one thing: God’s servant.

Samuel showed that those whom God finds faithful in small things will be trusted with greater things. He grew up assisting the high priest (Eli) in the Tabernacle until God directed him to other responsibilities. God was able to use Samuel because he was genuinely dedicated to God.

Strengths and accomplishments

  • Used by God to assist Israel’s transition from a loosely governed tribal people to a monarchy
  • Anointed the first two kings of Israel
  • Was the last and most effective of Israel’s judges
  • Is listed in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11

Weakness and mistake

  • Was unable to lead his sons into a close relationship with God

Lessons from his life

  • The significance of what people accomplish is directly related to their relationship with God
  • The kind of person we are is more important than anything we might do

Key verses

“As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him, and everything Samuel said proved to be reliable. And all Israel, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord” (1 Samuel 3:19, 20).

His story is told in 1 Samuel 1-28. He is also mentioned in Psalm 99:6; Jeremiah 15:1; Acts 3:24; 13:20; Hebrews 11:32.

I hope you can join us in our journey through 1 Samuel.

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

Adapted from:  Life Application Study Bible, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 409-419.
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Returning Hero – Mark 13

Do you remember where you were when you heard the news of major historic event just happening?  I’m dating myself, but remember while I was at a skating rink that news of Elvis Presley’s death (August 16, 1977) was shared over the loudspeaker.  I was in a high school history classroom when our teacher put on the news coverage of the Challenger disaster on January 28, 1986.  Do you remember where you were and how you felt when news broke about the terrorist attack on the twin towers September 11, 2001?   These and other events affect us powerfully, but all of those events pale in comparison to the most incredible event in all of history the awesome return of our reigning hero Jesus Christ!

The first time Jesus came mostly unnoticed into the world, the next time “every eye will see him.” In his first coming Jesus humbled himself, being born in a stable in Bethlehem. When he returns, he will come back as “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” In his first coming he endured the mockery of men who despised him for his goodness. Although he was the Son of God, he allowed them to put him to death, that He might thereby provide salvation for the world. When he comes again, all mockery will cease for he will rule the nations with a rod of iron. He came the first time as the Lamb of God; he comes again as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Two thousand years ago the religious leaders shouted in scorn, “He saved others, but he can’t save himself!”  The day is coming when the whole world will see Jesus as he really is. When that happens, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).

For Jesus’ first coming the word HUMILITY might best describe that historical event.  For His second coming, POWER and glory.  Nothing will be more spectacular than the triumphant return of our victorious hero!  Though He was once “despised and rejected of men,” He will one day return “in power and great glory,” heralded by angels and accompanied by his saints.

The return of Jesus and end times is known in theological terms as Eschatology, the study of last things.

In eschatology, it is important to remember that almost all Christians agree on these three things:

  1. There is coming a time of great tribulation such as the world has never seen.
  2. After the Tribulation, Christ will return to establish His millennial kingdom on earth.
  3. There will be Rapture; when Jesus returns to take His bride/church to be with him in Heaven, John 14:1-3. When our earthly bodies are transformed or resurrected into heavenly bodies 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; when Jesus returns with a trumpet of the archangel and all believers are caught up in the air to meet the Lord in the air to be with him for all eternity! 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

The question that causes differing opinions is, “when does the Rapture occur in relation to the Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ?”

Through the years three main theories have emerged concerning the timing of the Rapture: pretribulationism (the belief that the Rapture will occur before the Tribulation begins), midtribulationism (the belief that the Rapture will occur at the midpoint of the Tribulation), and posttribulationism (the belief that the Rapture will occur at the end of the Tribulation).  For more details about each, go here.

All beliefs have biblical validity and we shouldn’t fight or argue about which belief is best the most important thing to remember is Jesus is returning in power to take His church (believers, you) with Him to heaven for all eternity!   Our part is to be watchful and ready.   Are you ready for Jesus to return?

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

Sources:

https://www.gotquestions.org/pretribulationism.html

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Touched By Jesus – Mark 8

Have you ever heard of the term “untouchable?”  It refers to class of people that are despised, rejected, looked down upon and often abused.  Unfortunately we still have this reality today, but it was especially common in Jesus day to refer to people with blindness, deafness, sickness, illness, diseases or deformity.  Our hero Jesus steps in and touches an untouchable in our passage today.

Hopefully we won’t overlook the reality of what an unbelievable act a miracle was in that era of human history. Diseases were everywhere. There was little knowledge of what caused diseases.  There were few cures.  Whatever a person had, they had to live with.  Birth defects and venereal disease and lack of sanitation, infections, accidents, diseases all contributed to people being blind and a lot of people were blind.  

Jesus our hero came to heal and open blind eyes.  There’s a great reference to this fact when John the Baptist was in prison and he sent some of his followers to Jesus to see if He was actually the Messiah. 

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see:The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[b] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Matthew 11:1-5

This was a mark of Jesus ministry:  people healed, seeing, walking and cleansed!  Not only did Jesus heal but He also brought hope.  Blind people were usually outcasts. They were viewed as having been cursed by God. That’s why in John 9 the disciples begin a conversation about a blind man with,

Who sinned, this man or his parents?” John 9:1-2. Because if you were blind, according to their theology, you had been cursed by God and that would be true of any deformity, any defect, any disease. Their theology basically lined up with Job’s friends who assumed that because Job was having a lot of trouble, there was a lot of sin present.  Blind people were put out of the synagogue, they were alienated from normal social activity and life and perhaps only their family and friends would even so much as touch them, they were the untouchables.  They were in a desperate category.  For Jesus to step into that world at that time with tremendous amounts of illness in the middle of a false belief system that said, “You’re being cursed by God” and then miraculously cure anybody who came to Him is a huge statement about the compassion of God and the power of Christ.  What a hero!

The healing of this blind man in Mark 8 and the healing of the deaf-mute (7:31-37) are recorded only in Mark’s Gospel. These two miracles have several things in common: In both, Jesus took the man away from the crowd before performing the miracle, he used saliva, he touched him, and he did not publicize the event. This healing of the blind man is unique because it is the only record of Jesus healing in stages.

Once again, upon Jesus’ arrival, people brought the sick to him. This time some people brought a blind man (obviously he needed to be brought because he would never find Jesus on his own), and they begged Jesus to touch him. They had faith that Jesus’ touch would make their friend see again.

22 They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” 24 He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”

25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 

Let’s also see the direct connection from this story to the story of the disciples’ spiritual blindness at the end of this chapter.  Sight is a metaphor for understanding. Though they had different kinds of blindness, the disciples and the blind man could be given sight if they would have faith.

Have you ever met someone who says, “God could never forgive me because of all that I’ve done?”  Or “God may love others but I’m not sure that He loves me.”   It’s sad to me when people feel that they are untouchable spiritually.   The same Jesus, who loved to touch physically blind people, loves to touch spiritually blind people!  Jesus loves you.  Jesus loves to touch people today.

Like the blind man who needed for people to bring him to Jesus to be healed, are we believers willing to bring spiritually blind people to Jesus?  We can in prayer.  We can by in inviting them experience Jesus at church, a concert or an event.  We can share the gospel with them.

If you are not seeing Jesus clearly or spiritual matters clearly, could it be like the blind man that we need additional touches by Christ?   I know I long to be touched by the power of Christ not just once but often, that I may see more clearly.  I continue to learn, to grow and experience Christ the longer I walk with Him.  I need another touch of Christ.

I’ve met people that came to church twice and because God didn’t heal their marriage immediately; they decided to give up.  Could it be that they needed more time and another touch of Jesus?  I’ve met people that asked me to pray that their business expands and after it happens, they are satisfied and stop attending church.  Could it be that there is more to life than money and a successful business?   Does Jesus want to do more in our lives than help us have a good marriage and bank account?   I believe that Jesus wants to touch every area of our lives.  He wants us to grow spiritually, to know Him personally, to depend on Him, to serve Him.  He wants us to see a bigger picture than our own needs and desires.  He wants us to see the needs and other blind broken people that need His touch.

I was blind and broken until Jesus touched me.  I’m thankful for the people who prayed for me, ministered to me and invited me to experience Jesus.  I’m thankful for my healing hero and want to share Him with others.

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

 

Sources:
Grace to You, John MacArthur, Jesus Power Over Blindness
Bruce B. Barton et al., Life Application Bible Commentary – Mark, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1994), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 229-230.

 

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