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Archive for January, 2011

Hannah’s Fight

January 31st, 2011

1 Samuel 1:1-20

  • This time we are looking at Hannah herself – we can learn so much from her as a mighty pray-er.
  • In her pain she prays – but she goes further than just a plea for help, which even atheists might do.
  • Barrenness – a symbol in the Bible of national failure and fruitlessness, when God’s people turn away from Him, replacing Him with other gods. All of humanity has done this and in return we reap corruption, pain and suffering in this world.
  • God speaks through this picture of a barren woman. God doesn’t want us to be fruitless.
  • When we get to that point of desperation of barrenness, that’s where God can work. He loves using impossible situations and loves being strong in our weakness. He wants us to turn to Him.
  • God was the one who closed Hannah’s womb – seems final – but He is open to changing the situation. God is sovereign over all and yet people in the Bible have wrestled with God and pushed through and succeeded – e.g. Jacob, Moses, etc.
  • God is not offended by us arguing with Him – rather He listens and seems to like relating to us in this way.
  • Hannah has every reason to just be depressed and give up, but she believed that she could also be a hero in prayer like the great and mighty figures of the past, despite being just an ordinary woman.
  • Instead of being inspired by the great pray-ers, we can sometimes be discouraged. Do what Hannah did – press through to God anyway; come with all your passion and emotion and longings.
  • God wants us to wrestle with Him – still with reverence and submission, but wrestling nonetheless.
  • Mark 7:25-30 – Jesus says what he says to the Gentile woman in order that she might persevere and to see what kind of fight she had; she did indeed argue with Him and succeeded. Oftentimes we get offended by God, but we need to just press through.
  • God wants us to be stubborn in prayer – all Christians are invited to this!
  • It’s so easy to fall into self-pity, but we are to never give up.
  • Sometimes God purposefully makes it hard for us to see what kind of fight we put up.
  • Jesus told us to pray and no give up.
  • We don’t pray to be religious or spiritual.
  • Be careful when looking at Hannah’s example – in order to persevere through all her suffering she must have been filled with the same Spirit as the Great Pray-er, Jesus Christ.
  • Hannah points us to Jesus. She got what she asked for eventually, but when Jesus asked the Father to take away the cross, He didn’t get His request answered (Matt. 26:36-36). He prevailed when no-one else stood by Him.
  • Jesus is our sympathetic High Priest. Because of His unanswered prayer when He asked for the cross to be removed, we are now able to confidently draw near to God’s throne of grace (Heb.4:14-16).

Hannah’s Misfortune

January 18th, 2011

1 Samuel 1:1-7

  • This is a story of pain and agony – Hannah is barren, which is a traumatic thing anyway, but in the culture of her day it carried social stigma and shame. It was seen as a sign of disfavour and failure to not be able to have children.
  • Furthermore, living under the same roof as Hannah is her husband Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah, who continuously mocks and taunts her and adds to her sense of inferiority.
  • We look at the 2 people closest to Hannah and how they responded to her suffering:

1. Elkanah

  • Although he wasn’t very sympathetic with his words, he did do something well: he dealt compassionately with Hannah.
  • He gave her a double portion ‘because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb’. He offered kindness and affirmation despite knowing that God has closed her womb.
  • He recognises that God has the power to open Hannah’s womb but hasn’t – he recognises God’s sovereignty over the situation, that nothing happens without God’s allowing it. He doesn’t try and excuse God.
  • The example of Job – people blamed his suffering on something wrong he had done, like modern-day karma. Whereas it was nothing to do with that.
  • The example of the blind man that Jesus healed in the gospels – the disciples queried whether it was his sin or his parents’ sin that made him blind; Jesus said neither, but so that the glory of God might be shown.
  • Our response should not be spectacle about why certain suffering happened, but compassion and love for that person and trust in God and His wisdom.
  • We often have no idea why God’s doing what He’s doing in our life and in the lives of others – but we do know that God works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28). He has a plan and a purpose.
  • Elkanah believed God was good even before the greatest act of God’s goodness and love took place – His Son coming to earth to be misunderstood and rejected and to suffer for us.
  • Psalm 73:16-17 – we need to keep the big picture in mind – eternity.

2. Peninnah

  • The same phrase is used about God closing Hannah’s womb in relation to how Peninnah responded. The same 2 people can have the same theology and understanding, but one can be compassionate and the other can be cruel.
  • We look at Peninnah and question how someone can be so cruel – but we should be careful because we are only a few steps away from acting the same.
  • She is probably jealous of Hannah – Elkanah gives Hannah a double portion and shows special love for her. Peninnah therefore cannot enjoy her own life and is robbed of joy.
  • Jealously is incredibly harmful and destructive – it is so easy for us to be jealous of people are are seen as more special than us, e.g. Joseph and his brothers (Gen. 37:4).
  • Peninnah probably is satisfied with her lot of children – she wants what Hannah has that she doesn’t have, so she taunts Hannah about she has and Hannah doesn’t.
  • We secretly love it when the people we envy fall.
  • Envy rots your bones – Prov. 14:30.
  • Envy thrives on pride because we want to feel more special than others and for people to acknowledge it – in other words, we want to be worshipped.
  • We can only deal with pride through the gospel and understanding it. We see that we are desperately wicked and needy and deserve nothing, and that Jesus had to die a horrific death because of the evil of our sin and pride.
  • We can be freed to be truly happy for others and to offer kindness to others because God shows us such mercy.
  • Get to know Jesus and you’ll find you become more like Him.

Hannah’s Husband

January 12th, 2011

1 Samuel 1:1-8

  • The nature of the human heart is that we love stories and want to be apart of them.
  • God is the great Storyteller and He involves people – we get to play a part.
  • The Bible is about the Great Story – and it is true!
  • God created the world to be a place of His shalom – wholeness, things being as they should be. But we rejected God and replaced Him with ourselves, and consequently shalom has been broken.
  • But God’s plan is to restore His shalom – He will not quit until it is complete.
  • In the book of Samuel, God is establishing the idea of a righteous King; King David stands out the most, but even he is not the true King. He points to the King who will come and rule over the whole world forever.
  • This story begins in a dysfunctional domestic situation – we see Hannah, and her situation is a sad one. She is barren – which in that day brought not only grief but also shame on her – and she is in a bigamous marriage, where the other wife Penninah constantly provokes her.
  • Hannah’s husband, Elkanah, has not done a good job and has made brought pain into her life by marrying another woman, departing from God’s design for marriage.
  • Bigamy is not promoted in the Bible – it is merely describing the situation. Not everything in the Bible is prescriptive – the Bible is full of people’s sin, errors and wrongdoing, so we can learn from their mistakes.
  • Throughout the ages we have fled from God’s plan for marriage – from polygamy to co-habitation in our present day. People just go along with the way everyone else in society does it. And women are usually always the ones who suffer because of it.
  • Another of Elkanah’s errors is the way he responded to Hannah’s grief – he effectively tells her just to stop crying being sad, because he can’t cope. He fails to really listen or to sympathise or to enter into her grief with her. He just wants it to be solved and to go away.
  • It is demanding to enter into somebody’s else’s pain, especially when we have our own issues going on.
  • Often husbands will take their wife’s sadness to mean they’ve failed and that they’re not respected – but husbands are called to love their wife above themselves. How can they do this? Ephesians 5:25-35 – Jesus, the perfect Husband, is the role model – He sacrificially gave Himself for His Bride, the Church. He knows more than anyone what it is like to lack respect from His Bride.
  • We need to receive God’s love in order to love other people. God gives us the emotional resources we need to love others – even the unlovely.
  • 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 – God comforts us so that we can comfort others with the same comfort He gives to us.

Meeting With God

January 12th, 2011

Isaiah 6:1-8

With the beginning of a new year, we all tend to make new year’s resolutions. However, our number one priority should be this: to meet with God.

1. The glory

i. The encounter – v.1-4

  • God revealed Himself to Isaiah ‘in the year that King Uzziah died’ – a time when Isaiah reaches a pit of despair.
  • God is revealed as HOLY – pure, perfect, other. No one else is holy.

ii. The conviction – v.5

  • Isaiah proclaims doom and death upon himself from seeing the utter holiness of God and that the whole earth is full of God’s glory. It is a cry of desperation – he is silenced in the presence of God.
  • Isaiah talks about having ‘unclean lips’ – just as Jesus said, it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles a person as it shows what it is in their heart.
  • But God rebuilds the broken and the disintegrated.

2. The grace

i. Forgiven – v.6-7

  • The seraph does not bring atonement to Isaiah of its own accord, but does the will of God, declaring forgiveness over Isaiah.
  • God responded immediately to Isaiah’s cry – He is not unwilling or far off. Any unwillingness is always on our part.
  • The hot coal would have hurt – there was a real sense of pain.
  • God’s grace meets us where we are and restores us.

ii. Restored – v.8

  • Isaiah’s guilt is taken away and atoned for and he is restored.
  • The coal is taken from the altar of sacrifice – points to the ultimate sacrifice to come of Jesus.
  • While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
  • Romans 5:17 – we receive the gift of righteousness.
  • The abundance of grace – includes the provision of all our needs but also protection from the things we don’t need.
  • Joy flows from being forgiven – Isaiah has his voice back and goes and preaches the word of the Lord. He gives himself over to God, dedicates himself to His work.
  • He who recognises that he has been forgiven much, will love much.
  • God opposes the proud but He gives grace to the humble.
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