Thursday, July 22, 2010
God of Reversals - Hannah and Samuel
A common theme of the Old Testament is God's control of the womb. In Hannah's story (I Samuel 1-2) she is the barren wife of Elkanah. Elkanah had a second wife, Peninnah, who gave him children. Peninnah is called her "rival", who "would provoke her bitterly to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb." (1:6) Hannah had great distress and sorrow for her inability to carry a child, and though Elkanah loved her dearly, his love was not enough to take away her emptiness.
Hannah would travel with the family when Elkanah would go to sacrifice. At this time the Temple had not yet been built, and the children of Israel worshipped at the Tabernacle which was located at Shiloh, about 20 miles north of Jerusalem. One day her grief overwhelmed her and through her tears, she vowed to the Lord that she would give her first born to Him for His purposes and His service. She vowed that he would be dedicated as a Nazirite - this was a special vow that, in relation to service to the Lord, committed not to drink wine, not to cut their hair and not to touch a dead body. All these actions were outward signs of being fully committed to the Lord's service. This vow could be a life long vow, or for a specific time, and could be made by a man or a woman.
To make a long story short, the Lord accepted Hannah's vow and gave her a baby boy, Samuel. When Samuel was weaned, Hannah brought him to the Tabernacle where she left him with Eli the head priest to serve in the house of the Lord. Yearly she would bring him a new robe and the end of her story is that the Lord blessed her with 3 more sons and 2 daughters for her faithfulness (2:21).
God definitely reversed the course of this mother's life, and Hannah didn't live in ignorance of this fact. She fully recognized that God was a God of reversals, as seen in her prayer of thanksgiving and offering, when she left little Samuel with Eli. Let's look a bit at her prayer and you will see what I mean:
"My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exulted in the Lord, my mouth speaks boldly against my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation. There is no one holy like the Lord, indeed, there is no one besides You, nor is there any rock like our God. Boast no more so very proudly, do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and with Him actions are weighed."
(Now observe her testimony of the God of reversals in the next few verses!)
"The bows of the mighty are shattered, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full hire themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry cease to hunger. Even the barren gives birth to seven, but she who has many children languishes. The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts. He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with nobles, and inherit a seat of honor."
In reading these words, you have to wonder how much of this is pointed at her rival, Peninnah, don't you? But she proclaims the fact that God reverses what seems to be the course of life. He makes the poor rich, He brings low and then raises up, He takes those who have plenty and makes them work for bread, while providing for the hungry. And in her case, He took the barren and filled her quiver. She praises Him and gives the glory to Him alone.
And then she utters a prophecy that gives us reason to pause:
"For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and He set the world on them. He keeps the feet of His godly ones, but the wicked ones are silenced in darkness; for not by might shall a man prevail. Those who contend with the Lord will be shattered; against them He will thunder in the heavens, The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; and He will give strength to His king, and will exalt the horn of His anointed."
Let me make a few observations:
*Pillars of the earth - this is a reference to the leaders of the world. Hannah is declaring that God is in control of the world's leaders - He sets them into power. This concept is seen in the story of Nebuchadnezzar's fall (Daniel 4:25) as well as taught by Paul in Romans 13:1.
*Keeps the feet of the godly but silences the wicked - this is a promise of protection for the godly. Add that with her comment that might will not make man prevail, and my mind is drawn to the last days where the nations of the world will gather to wage war on God, but they are destroyed with relatively little effort (Revelation 19:19-21).
*She also prophesies that those who contend with the Lord will be shattered and says that the Lord shall judge the ends of the earth - again, this is a reference to the final plans of God for this earth
*And then she says something really unusual - she prophesies about a coming King, who will be strengthened by the Lord and exalted as His anointed. What makes this so unusual is the fact that at this point in Israel's history, they didn't have a king. Samuel was the one who annointed the first and second kings (Saul and David), so for this mother to utter a prophecy about a King is highly unusual. I also believe that in the context of the phrases above this prophecy, that Hannah was not talking about the future King David, but of Jesus Christ. He is the one who will judge the ends of the earth (Revelation 5) and He will reign on earth in the Millennial Kingdom (Revelation 20:4-6).
Now, my buddy, The Orange Mailman (see blog to the right) is my resource on the Davidic covenant and the Millennial Reign of Christ, so I am not going expound on this topic, but to say that Hannah's prayer is meant to be an encouragement for those of us who live in the last days. She is telling us to remember that God is a God of reversals. As we see evil abounding and taking over the hearts of men, as we stand amazed at the wickedness of world leaders, as we see the de-valuing of human life and the exalting and worship of creation rather than the Creator, we are not to be disheartened because God is in control. He will reverse things in the last days, He will judge the wicked and He will reign exalted.
Hannah saw first hand God's reversal in her life and she praised Him for it. Let us follow her example and praise the Lord when we see Him step into our lives in a mighty way, and let us also praise Him for His future plans that we can stand firm on by faith, knowing that He will prevail in the end.