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May 14, 2017

A Mother's Worship

A Mother

Passage: 1 Samuel 1-2

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Becoming a Person of Blessing

Keywords: disappointment, family, hannah, hopes, mothers, power of 1, worship, unmet longings

Summary:

There are a million things that can keep us from worship of God: unfulfilled longings, hopes, desires, relatives, dysfunctional family life...the list is long. This message looks at all that in the life of one woman, Samuel's mother Hannah, and how we can turn those things into springboards for deeper worship. When God is in it, it just takes one person doing the right thing to change the course of an entire nation.

Detail:

“A Mother’s Worship”

I Samuel 1-2

May 13, 2017

 

Mother’s Day Video:  “Mighty”--https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xa-7jtvi7J4

            Where’s the Kleenex?  It’s not easy being a mom! But what a divine calling it is…and what amazing power mothers have… even though they may feel very powerless at times. 

Being a mother isn’t easy.  And for some, not being a mother isn’t easy either.  Millions of women have felt the pain of childlessness, whether as a result of singleness or barrenness. But while having children may relieve that pain, it usually brings with it others.

We’re launching into a new O.T. book whose stories focus on the lives of some of God’s children “in pain.”  Many of them were broken people—broken in some deep way by life’s events.  But it is just those people that God used to call an entire nation to Himself, a nation that was itself broken.

That book is 1st Samuel.   If there is one message of this book, it is that we must never underestimate the influence and power of just one person to affect and change the course of an entire nation.  Seems to be the nature of life:  takes just one to influence a whole world.

--Just one Adam to bring a whole world under sin

            --Just one Noah to save a whole race from judgment

                                    --Just one Joseph to spare a chosen people.

--Just one Moses to deliver a whole nation

            --Just one Joshua to lead them into the Promised Land

                        --Just one Jesus to save a condemned humanity

--Just one Paul to become a preacher to the Gentiles

This book of 1st Samuel opens with one of the most amazing stories of childless-ness as well as mother-hood. 

Background:

In our English Bibles, 1 Samuel follows the Book of Ruth.

But in the Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts, 1 Samuel immediately follows the Book of Judges. And so it is in the Hebrew Bible that the last words to be written before our text in 1 Samuel are these: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). 

“Those days” were far from the high water mark of Israel’s spiritual life as a nation. It’s a book that chronicles a depressing cycle of spiritual idolatry followed by national failure and oppression often leading to the rise of some “deliverer” that didn’t last for long.  

The writer of Judges links Israel’s spiritual decay and political chaos to the absence of strong spiritual and political leadership. The book of 1 Samuel records the process by which God provided His people with that leadership.  As such, it speaks directly to our nation and our homes today. 

This story begins where most of God’s great work begins – with imperfect individuals and dysfunctional families in the midst of morally bankrupt nations.  And this story begins with a childless woman. 

Read 1:1-8

There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 

He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.

Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. 

Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”

Talk about imperfect people and a dysfunctional family!

  • Elkanah: husband of 2 wives.  That was only the first of his mistakes:
  • He plays favorites between his two wives (vs. 4-5)
  • He fails to stop the “spouse-rival abuse” that takes place between Peninnah and Hannah.
  • He responds like a clueless male to the deep hurts of his wife (vs. 8)
  • Seeing his wife weeping, he asks, “Why are you crying?”
  • Being a food-driven male, he suggests that her problem may simply be that she needs to eat more.
  • Being rock-dumb to the damage the ongoing competition between his two wives is causing them both, he tries to solve Hannah’s pain of barrenness with a guilt trip: “Don’t I mean more to you than 10 sons?”

So there’s our imperfect husband of the story.

On to wife #1…or #2, depending on how you’re looking at the marriage.

  • Peninnah: She’s got his children, but not his heart!  So she goes for what she knows will hit him hardest: wound the one he really loves, Hannah, if you want to wound him.

So here’s our imperfect wife…#2.

  • Hannah: she seems to be the closest to non-dysfunctional of all three. 
  • She bears the ridicule of Peninnah in silence,
  • She doesn’t blame or nag her husband for her childlessness,
  • She continues to practice a devoted spiritual life and relationship with God year after year despite great disappointments and ongoing, virtually annual attacks from her competitor-wife.

Yet she clearly experiences regular emotional pain and anguish. 

Now the law of God required that the men of Israel appear before God 3 times a year at 3 annual religious holidays.  While many men would take their entire families, women were not required to go.  Knowing the family dynamic going on in this family, one could easily imagine that it would have been a lot easier for at least the wives to have stayed home from the annual pilgrimages. 

  • Elkanah wouldn’t have had to contend with one mean and one crying wife.
  • Hannah wouldn’t have had to put up with Peninnah’s meanness.
  • And Peninnah wouldn’t have had to feel the pain every year of watching her husband remind her that she was his 2nd-favorite wife when he gave Hannah the double-portion of food.

But there is something even more painful behind this barrenness for Hannah.  Barrenness was a sign of God withholding favor and blessing… just as the birth of many children was a sign of God’s blessing upon his people. 

Ex.  23:25 – God promises certain things to his people if they will cleanse the Promised land of false gods and worship only the Lord God, Jehovah. 

“Worship the Lord your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water.  I will take away sickness from among you, and none will miscarry or be barren in your land.  I will give you a full life span.”

What’s amazing here is Hannah, year after year after year, putting up with ridicule, verbal abuse, emotional pain…just so she can seek God and worship Him.  And year after year after year, she gets nothing but a a barren womb, empty arms, and no apparent blessing from God.

  • Hannah could have gotten bitter towards the people of Israel. If they had been living right, God would be fulfilling his word and blessing her womb.
  • She could have gotten bitter at God: what was the use of crying out to God if he never answered the deepest longing of your soul, never gave the one simple petition you asked year after year?
  • She could have gotten bitter about a husband who was so clueless…well-intentioned but clueless!

APP:  Anybody here every struggle with the withheld blessing of God?  Every feel like, “What’s the use!  I seek God day after day, week after week, only to come up empty.  On top of that, I get more pain in my heart than I would have had I just stayed home and watched TV.”  God never promised that seeking Him would be painless. 

This childless woman has a lot to teach us about seeking God despite disappointment…and not getting bitter towards either God or the people around us.

Hannah’s response actually makes her THE PIVITOL PERSON in the ongoing advancement of God’s kingdom building on earth at the time.  She somehow grasped what so many of us have a hard time coming to grips with:  that disappointment and delayed blessings have deeper purpose in our lives. 

Notice what is happening to Hannah as the years go by and she is face to face with her disappointment with life and even God.

I Sam. 1:9-18

Q:  How many years had Hannah cried out to God, both at home and at the Tabernacle in Shiloh for the need of her life?

How long had she longed for evidence of God’s blessing on her life? 

  • Hannah wanted only a child to prove to everyone around her that God was not punishing her for some secret sin. But GOD wanted a prophet for his people.
  • Hannah wanted to just be a mother of any child that she could raise to carry on the good name and reputation of her loving husband. But God wanted a mother who would raise a special child who would carry on His good name before a whole nation.

God waited until Hannah’s heart rose to the level of God’s great plan for a whole nation before he blessed her with an answer to her prayers that far exceeded anything she had imagined in her wildest dreams. 

God sometimes delays his hand of blessing in order that he might grow our heart of passion for Him.

Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s house. 10 In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

12 As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”

15 “Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”

17 Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”

18 She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.

It’s possible that her vow of vs. 11 might have been a desperate attempt at bargaining with God.  “If you’ll give me a son, I’ll let him become a preacher”??? 

But I think there is also a different reason she may have made this promise to God. 

Every year – Hannah had to see what was going on at the Tent of Meeting, the very place where God was to be the people’s greatest joy and heart desire.  In 1:3, we were introduced to Hophni and Phinehas, two brothers who were sons of Priest EliCh. 2 will go on to tell us some of the disgusting drama that was going on right in the place where worship with these very people who were charged with leading in worship.  They were breaking both the religious and moral law of God by stealing the sacrifices meant for God committing adultery with the women who served at the tabernacle.  Their own bodily appetites were more important to them than God’s high call to lead His people and be His men.

Hannah saw this going on year after year.  She heard the stories, watched the abuses, listened to the whispers of those who should have been spiritual leaders in a crumbling nation. 

I think God was giving Hannah a heart for more than just a child.  I think he was building in her a heart for the spiritual destiny of a whole nationHer personal disappointment over physical barrenness was being used to get her closer to God’s own disappointment over the spiritual barrenness of His people.

Q:  Will we allow the deepest longings of our heart for God’s blessing on us in some personal area of our lives to lift us to a higher and greater longing of God’s heart for our family or city or nation? 

Q:  Will we allow God’s “delays” to our cries to him for certain blessings do their divine work of expanding our vision rather than constricting it? 

Had Hannah’s deepest and real desire been just to have a child in her home for 13 or 18 or 20 years, I have no doubt whatsoever that she would never have developed the kind of heart and joy expressed in her song of chapter 2 when she, a mere three years or less later, hands over her Samuel to God and to the ‘parenting’ of Eli who was an obvious disaster as a father to his own kids.

Most moms have great difficulty dropping off their little preschoolers at a church daycare.   But Hannah dropped off her beloved 3-year-old Samuel for the rest of his life at the Tent of Meeting in Shiloh with a Psalm of praise to God that we read in chapter 2:1-10--

Then Hannah prayed and said:

“My heart rejoices in the Lord;
    in the Lord my horn is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
    for I delight in your deliverance.

“There is no one holy like the Lord;
    there is no one besides you;
    there is no Rock like our God.

“Do not keep talking so proudly
    or let your mouth speak such arrogance,
for the Lord is a God who knows,
    and by him deeds are weighed.

“The bows of the warriors are broken,
    but those who stumbled are armed with strength.
Those who were full hire themselves out for food,
    but those who were hungry are hungry no more.
She who was barren has borne seven children,
    but she who has had many sons pines away.

“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.
He raises the poor from the dust
    and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
    and has them inherit a throne of honor.

“For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s;
    on them he has set the world.
He will guard the feet of his faithful servants,
    but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness.

“It is not by strength that one prevails;
10     those who oppose the Lord will be broken.
The Most High will thunder from heaven;
    the Lord will judge the ends of the earth.

“He will give strength to his king
    and exalt the horn of his anointed.”

That’s the prayer of a women who is fulfilling more than a bargain with God made out of desperation.  It’s the prayer of a women who sees God doing something great through her and her tiny child. 

APP:  I don’t know what this does to you who are parents, but it leaves me in utter awe.  Hannah was not a woman with detached emotions.  She was a mother who felt deeply.  She didn’t just go home and start having more children to fill the ache of her soul.  She never lost a bit of her longing for her firstborn Samuel.  Her practical theology and experience with God went far deeper than even her mother’s love for her son. 

God had found a woman in whom he could develop a heart for the whole nation.  In the process he made a woman who prayed God’s heart for a whole nation into reality through her prayers for one little boy, Samuel.

APP 1Never underestimate the power of parental prayer “at a distance” (Partial or lost custody?  Days in secular school?)  Are we praying BIG PRAYERS for our children or some spiritual children? 

APP 2:  What unmet personal longings might God not be answering right now so He can grow those desires into something bigger than us…something potentially nation or city or family-shaping

Unrealized sp. blessings can be the road to unparalleled spiritual work. 

Think for a moment about the UNANSWERED PRAYERS in your life right now.  What blessing of God over your life have you been seeking which God has not yet answered? 

  • Think of one or two.
  • How might God want to grow your heart for something bigger than just that blessing, something that would bless not only you but many other people?

If that truth seems hard to embrace, try the next one on from this text.  The presence of weak, imperfect, even immoral leadership has never stopped God or His faith-filled people from godly progress.  The real test of this comes when you put your own blessings from God in the care of imperfect, even inferior custodians of that blessing. 

  • What would most of us have done about worship if Eli was our pastor? Elkanah didn’t let the Eli’s failures determine the success of his own worship. Hannah didn’t let Eli’s poor fathering of his own sons to keep her from trusting God to make her toddler-son into a national spiritual leader.  Other’s failures are poor excuses for our own lack of faith.

We’ve seen that happen time and again in the 20th and 21st century:

  • Growth of the church in Communist China! When China turned Communistic after WWII and all missionaries were expelled, there were less than 1.5 million believers.  There are currently 60-80 million Christians in China with between 10,000-25,000 converts a day (Open Doors).
  • Spiritual transformation of South Korea. In 1900Korea had no Protestant church and the country was deemed impossible to penetrate.  Today Korea is 30% Christian with 7000 churches in Seoul alone and several of these churches have over 1,000,000 members (Vision 2020).
  • About 500 Muslims come to faith in Christ every month inIran--a country ranked among the top ten persecutors of Christians in the world.  Many of the new believers are young, since 70% of Iran is under the age of 30 (Vision 2020).
  • The number of Christians inIndonesia has grown from 1.3M forty years ago to over 11M today.  That said, of the 76,000 villages in the country, 50,000 are without a church (Operation World).
  • Growth of God’s family in Africa! Every day, 20,000 Africans come to Christ. Africa was 3% Christian in 1900 and is now over 50% Christian (Vision 2020)
  • In D. 100, there were 360 non-Christians for every 1 true believer.  Today the ratio is less than 7 to every self-proclaimed Christ-follower in the world

APP:  Let’s remember that, parents, when we send our children off to public school or university and pray diligently for them every day.

Let’s remember that when we are tempted to despair about our politicians and government. Their bad judgment and behavior doesn’t have to define our faith or prayer life.  If anything, it should fuel it!

ALL:

The greatest treasure God can give to anyone is the care and nurturing of another human being, particularly a child. 

  • To every mom among us who is seeking to raise up the next generation of Christ-followers, we honor you!
  • To every woman who is seeking to live out the heart of a mother towards someone else, family or not, we honor you.
  • And to every one of us who longs for spiritual children, NEVER stop praying nor asking God to take away our barrenness and replace it with nation-changing spiritual children.

APP:  What if God has given to us as a small, urban church some children (either physical or spiritual, young or old) who HE wants to use to change this neighborhood, this city, this nation or even this world?

  • How might our prayer life change if we knew one of us would become mayor or governor or senator or college president or national evangelist or supreme court justice?
  • How would your parenting change, parents?
  • How would your teaching change, S.S. teachers?
  • How would your volunteering change to…teach kids, disciple adults, mentor a young person, take leadership in a ministry?

CLOSE:  What unrealized longings do you have?  What desire for God and his blessing is crying out from your soul?  Surrender it to God and let Him make it even bigger than you could think or dare to imagine.

  1. Stanley Jones: Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God. “Prayer is a time exposure to God” in which I expose myself sufficiently to God so that His desire and plan becomes etched upon the ‘negative’ of my life. 

PRAYER:

  1. Need to surrender to Jesus? Someone been praying for you to get right with God?  That happens by faith in the person of Jesus and his reconciling work on the cross for you. (Pray)
  2. Some disappointment or unanswered longing that has grown into bitterness? Release it, repent of it, return to humble submission under God.
  3. What longing for God’s evident blessing do you have? If none, ask God to give you some.  If there, ask Him to grow it.
  4. Who do you need to entrust again to God’s care despite their imperfections? Who is God asking you to shape by your prayers from a distance?  Through regular mentoring? 

 

Study Questions for Small Groups

1.)  Put yourself in the sandals of each of the principle players mentioned in chapters 1 & 2.  Describe the joys, sorrows, difficulties, desires, disappointments and triumphs of each.  What do you admire about them or what would you avoid?

What seemingly unchangeable situations in life have you grieved over?  What did God do in your heart through that experience?  When or how have you seen God “remember” you in a time of need?

2.)  What does Hannah intend for her son by her vow of 1:11?  (See Nu. 6:1-8, Judges 13:7)  Was such a vow usually carried out as Hannah and Elkanah did?  What leads you to believe Hannah is or is not bargaining with God for a son?

3.) What vows have you made with God?  Have they been difficult to keep?  What joys have you had in keeping them?  What things or people have you dedicated to God in as complete a way as Hannah dedicated Samuel?

4.)  What were the effects of Eli’s actions toward Hannah?  Is Eli’s blessing a promise or a hopeful prayer (1:18)?  What brought the immediate change in Hannah’s heart?

5.)  Look at Hannah’s prayer in chapter two.  What do you learn about God from this prayer?  Are there any trends about the ‘reversals’ described in this prayer? How have you experienced God’s ‘reversals’ in life?  Where in life is God calling you to trust his strength?  If you wrote a prayer from your experience at present, what would it focus on?  How would it be different from Hannah’s?

6.)  What desires do you currently have for God’s blessing?  How are they different today from previously?  How might God be growing or expanding those desires?